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No, WHO’s director general did not say he wasn’t vaccinated during an interview

VERIFY logo VERIFY 8/5/2022 Kelly Jones
© Provided by VERIFY

The World Health Organization (WHO) has encouraged people across the world to get the COVID-19 vaccine since it first became available to the public. 

As of Aug. 2, 2022, a total of 12,308,330,588 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide. 

But, people on social media are questioning whether WHO’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, M.D., has received the vaccine after a video clip appears to show him admitting he hasn’t been vaccinated. 

The video claims to show Ghebreyesus sitting down for an interview, during which he says he wasn’t vaccinated because he was “protesting” until poorer regions across the world gained access to the vaccine. 

“Tedros not jabbed? Well who’d have thought?,” a tweet with the viral video clip said. The tweet was posted on August 4.

As of Aug. 5, the video had more than 237,000 views.

THE QUESTION

Did WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus say he wasn’t vaccinated during an interview?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

No, Ghebreyesus didn’t say he wasn’t vaccinated during an interview. The video clip was shared out of context. The video clip is from a longer interview, in which Ghebreyesus talks about vaccine inequity around the world. 

WHAT WE FOUND

In an email to VERIFY, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization said the tweet claiming Ghebreyesus is not vaccinated is “not true.”

Ghebreyesus publicly announced getting the COVID-19 vaccine. On May 21, 2021, he tweeted a photo of him receiving a vaccination shot and wrote: “Today it was my turn to get vaccinated @Hopitaux_unige [Les Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève] against #COVID19. Vaccines save lives. It’s critical to get them to all counties A.S.A.P. If like me you live in a country where vaccines are available, please get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”

The viral video clip claiming to show Ghebreyesus is a snippet from a longer interview he did for the HBO film “How to Survive a Pandemic.” 

The interview starts at about an hour and 40 minutes into the film. (Note: You need a HBO or HBO Max subscription in order to watch). The film debuted on HBO and was released on HBO Max on March 29, 2022.

Ghebreyesus did not say he hasn’t been vaccinated in the film. He said he waited to be vaccinated until other countries gained access to the vaccine. 

“You know, still, I feel like I know where I belong. In a poor country called Ethiopia, in a poor continent called Africa. And I wanted to wait until Africa and other countries in other regions, low-income countries, start vaccination,” Ghebreyesus said in the interview. “So I was protesting, in other words, because we’re failing. I saw global failures like HIV and these are the things I remember when we were confronted with COVID.”

In March 2021, Ethiopia launched COVID-19 vaccine introduction in a high-level national event where frontline health workers were vaccinated to mark the beginning of the vaccination campaign, the WHO said. Ghebreyesus was vaccinated two months later.

This wasn’t the first time Ghebreyesus went public about vaccine inequity. In October 2021, he penned a journal article titled “Five steps to solving the vaccine inequity crisis.” He was also interviewed for Science magazine about the “global disparity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.”

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