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WHO chief is vaccinated against COVID-19, contrary to false claim

Not Real News

On Friday, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming that a video shows World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying he isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19. The clip is from a documentary and shows part of an interview, filmed weeks after Ghebreyesus was vaccinated, in which he says at one point that he waited for better global vaccine equity before receiving his own shot.

CLAIM: Video shows World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying he isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

THE FACTS: The clip is from a documentary and shows part of an interview, filmed weeks after Ghebreyesus was vaccinated, in which he says at one point that he waited for better global vaccine equity before receiving his own shot. But the clip is circulating on social media without context to falsely claim that it shows the WHO leader expressing that he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Tedros not jabbed?” reads one tweet, which garnered more than 8,000 likes. The 35-second clip shows a portion of a 2021 interview of Tedros by Jon Cohen, a writer for the publication Science. The interview was included in a documentary, “How to Survive a Pandemic,” which runs more than 100 minutes.

The clip shows Cohen asking Ghebreyesus when he was vaccinated, and then cuts to the WHO director-general responding: “You know, still I feel like I know where I belong: in a poor country called Ethiopia, in a poor continent called Africa, and wanted to wait until Africa and other countries, in other regions, low-income countries, start vaccination. So I was protesting, in other words, because we’re failing.”

But the documentary never claimed Ghebreyesus was not vaccinated, nor did Ghebreyesus’ response indicate as much. In the full June 12, 2021, interview — which was edited for the documentary — Ghebreyesus in fact did reply that he was vaccinated on May 12, according to the Science article by Cohen that followed. Ghebreyesus also publicly posted a photo on Twitter showing him receiving his vaccine that day, which he followed with a post about vaccine equity. The date was not included in the portion of the response shown in the documentary, Cohen confirmed to the AP.

Cohen responded to the erroneous claim about Ghebreyesus’ vaccination status on Twitter, calling it a “lie,” and pointing to his written interview. The filmmaker, David France, said in an interview with the AP that the important part of Ghebreyesus’ answer was his explanation that he had waited for better vaccine equity before getting his own shot. But, he said, Ghebreyesus’ explanation that he had waited was clearly in the past tense. “In the context of the film, it was the wait — and the reason for the wait — that was the core part of his answer, and that’s what we included,” France said.

— Angelo Fichera

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