WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is vaccinated against COVID-19, contrary to edited video claiming otherwise

“Dr Tedros doesn’t have his vaccination”
Factually inaccurate: The claim that the WHO Director-General isn’t vaccinated is contradicted by Tedros himself in the full version of the interview and by his own tweet showing him getting vaccinated a month earlier.
Misrepresents source: The claim relies on an edited version of the interview that excluded Tedros’ reply indicating that he was vaccinated, although he didn’t do it as early as he could have as a sign of protest. He had chosen to receive the vaccine only when low-income countries were able to start COVID-19 vaccination, as a sign of protest against unequal access to vaccines.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on 12 May 2021. He explained that while he could have received it earlier, he decided to wait until low-income countries started vaccination as a sign of protest against inequality of access to vaccines.

FULL CLAIM: Tedros explains in a interview why he is not vaccinated against COVID-19; “Dr Tedros doesn’t have his vaccination”


Since the onset of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, several inaccurate claims have circulated that individuals directly or indirectly connected to the global vaccination effort avoided receiving their own doses. For instance, Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla and Phoebe Gates, daughter of Bill Gates, have both been targets of such claims. But a review of the facts showed that both Bourla and Phoebe Gates received their vaccines.

Social media posts making the same type of claim have also targeted Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO chief, who prefers to be known by his first name, has been a strong voice supporting the global effort toward COVID-19 vaccination. Such claims may thus  undermine his vaccination advocacy.

In July 2023, a Facebook reel containing an excerpt of an interview with Tedros circulated on social media. In this excerpt, Tedros was asked “What was the date you got your first shot?”, to which Tedros appeared to avoid answering directly. Instead, he explained that he decided to wait before getting his dose as a protest against the inequality of access to the vaccine.

A voice-over—not part of the original interview—claimed that the interview is about why Tedros “is not, have a guess, vaccinated”. The same voice-over then stated, “Dr Tedros doesn’t have his vaccination because he’s Ethiopian and Ethiopia doesn’t have a lot of vaccines. So he’s decided to wait”. On top of this, the text in the reel claimed that “the vaccinated was[sic] duped”.

However, this claim is inaccurate and misrepresents what Tedros said in the interview.

The video excerpt is part of a longer interview by Science Magazine that took place on 12 June 2021, as shown by the interview transcript published on 18 June 2021.

The full transcript shows that Tedros’ answer to the question of when he received his first dose is different: he had answered: “May 12”. This is confirmed by a tweet that Tedros posted on 12 May 2021 showing him getting his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Therefore, the claim is inaccurate because Tedros got vaccinated one month before the interview. Jon Cohen, the Science Magazine journalist who conducted the interview, also refuted the claim on Twitter.

Tedros’ “May 12” answer is missing in the excerpt used to support the claim. As Full Fact pointed out, the excerpt comes from a HBO documentary. In the documentary, Tedros appears to answer the question about the date of his vaccination by saying that he preferred to wait as a protest against vaccine access inequality. However, the full transcript shows that this is in fact the answer to a different question.

To the question “You’re the head of WHO. You could have said in December 2020, ‘I’m ready.’ Why did you wait?”, Tedros replied that he wanted “to be reminded every day that vaccination should start in Africa. [He] wanted to wait until […] low-income countries started vaccination”.

This difference between the video excerpt and the interview transcript thus suggests that the excerpt was edited in a manner that is potentially misleading.

Finally, listening to Tedros’ answer in the excerpt also shows that he was already vaccinated. He said “I feel like I know where I belong, in a poor country called Ethiopia […] and wanted to wait until Africa […] started vaccination”. The use of the past tense indicates that Tedros waited longer than necessary, but eventually got vaccinated.

Other versions of that video already circulated in the past, propagating the same claim. Several organizations reviewed the claim at that time and concluded that it is inaccurate.

Published on: 02 Aug 2023 | Editor:

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