Pfizer Facility Damaged in Tornado Didn’t Produce COVID-19 Vaccines

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SciCheck Digest

No COVID-19 vaccines were affected by the tornado that damaged Pfizer’s North Carolina warehouse, which doesn’t produce the vaccines. But some misinformation spreaders are claiming vaccines were destroyed.


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Pfizer says it uses two facilities to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine that it developed with BioNTech.

One is in Puurs, Belgium, and the other is in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“[B]oth plants had the space, the know-how, the people, and the equipment to get to work right away,” the company explained on its website. “Their locations in the U.S. and Europe positioned them well for global distribution.”

But misinformation purveyors began spreading a rumor online that the company’s COVID-19 vaccines were impacted by a tornado that damaged a North Carolina warehouse on July 19.

For example, Graham Allen, a conservative commentator we’ve written about before, posted a video of the destruction on Instagram with text that said, “Gods work? A Pfizer Warehouse Full of Covid Vaccines Was Just DESTROYED BY A TORNADO in North Carolina.” After another fact checker wrote about his post, Allen edited the caption to acknowledge that “COVID-19 Vaccines Are NOT ‘Stocked’ At NC Pfizer Facility Damaged By A Tornado,” but the text on his video remained the same.

But there’s no evidence to support the claim that COVID-19 vaccines were present at that warehouse.

“We do not produce our COVID 19 vaccine or Paxlovid at the site,” a Pfizer spokesperson told us in an email, referring to the company’s oral antiviral drug made to treat COVID-19 in some adult patients. No COVID-19 vaccines or Paxlovid were impacted or damaged, the spokesperson said.

The facility in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, “is responsible for manufacturing nearly 25 percent of all Pfizer’s sterile injectables – including anesthesia, analgesia, therapeutics, anti-infectives and neuromuscular blockers – which is nearly 8 percent of all the sterile injectables used in U.S. hospitals,” the company explained in a press release after the tornado. “The site is one of 10 Pfizer manufacturing sites located in the United States.”

The inclusion of “sterile injectables” may have led some to believe that vaccines were affected, but a list of “sterile injectables” for hospitals on Pfizer’s website includes only injectable medication, not vaccines.


Editor’s note: SciCheck’s articles providing accurate health information and correcting health misinformation are made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation.

Sources

Pfizer. “Shot of a Lifetime: How Two Pfizer Manufacturing Plants Upscaled to Produce the COVID-19 Vaccine in Record Time.” Pfizer.com. Accessed 24 Jul 2023.

Pfizer Inc. (@pfizer). “We can confirm that the Pfizer Rocky Mount facility was damaged by the tornado. Pfizer colleagues at the site followed our established safety protocol and were able to evacuate. They are safe and accounted for.” Twitter. 19 Jul 2023.

Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Social Media Claims Misrepresent Boston U. Study of What Causes Severity of COVID-19 Strains.” FactCheck.org. 21 Oct 2022.

Keefe, Eliza. “Posts Make Misleading Claims About Bill to Protect LGBTQ+ Events in Ontario.” FactCheck.org. 10 Apr 2023.

Keefe, Eliza. “Military Equipment Traveling Back to U.S., Contrary to Social Media Posts.” FactCheck.org. 17 Mar 2023.

Pfizer. Spokesperson. Email to FactCheck.org. 24 Jul 2023.

McDonald, Jessica. “Q&A On Paxlovid, Pfizer’s COVID-19 Oral Antiviral.” FactCheck.org. Updated 27 May 2022.

Pfizer. Press release. “Pfizer Announces Post-Tornado Relief Plans for Rocky Mount Community and Manufacturing Facility.” 21 Jul 2023.

Pfizer. “Browse the broadest portfolio of sterile injectable medications in the United States, including ready-to-use and surgical products.” Accessed 24 Jul 2023.

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