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World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stumbled over his words, first mispronouncing the word “children” with “kil/cil.” He then corrected himself and pronounced the word “children.” That led some people to claim he said “kill children.”
WHO supports the use of vaccines for children and says that there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has killed children.
A Dec. 22 Twitter post claimed that the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was caught on camera with an alarming message regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and children.
The post used a video clip of Tedros speaking at a Dec. 20 WHO press briefing: "So if (a COVID-19 booster) is going to be used, it’s better to focus on those groups who have risk of severe disease and death, rather than, as we see, some countries are using to give boosters to cil—children, which is not right."
The post claims that what Tedros really said was, "The vaccines are being used to kill children." The video was retweeted over 1,700 times, with many believing that the director general had just uncovered a plot to kill children.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Pump the brakes — this is a case of a public figure stumbling over his words rather than saying the vaccines were being used to kill children. The World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts has advised that Pfizer/BionTech vaccine is suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above, and that the vaccine is safe for most people 18 and older.
In addition, WHO concluded that based on trials, the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweighed the risks for all age groups.
"What occurred on Monday at the WHO press conference during his delivery of the word "children" is that he got stuck on the first syllable "chil" and it came out sounding like "cil/kil," the World Health Organization said in a statement to PolitiFact. "He then correctly pronounced the same syllable immediately after, with it coming out audibly as "cil-children". Any other interpretation of this is 100% incorrect."
WHO strongly promotes the use of vaccines to protect people from COVID-19, the spokesperson said. A video and transcript of the press briefing is available on the WHO’s website. The World Health Organization has consistently said that people more at risk from COVID-19 should receive the vaccine before children, who tend to have milder disease, according to WHO.
PolitiFact has fact-checked numerous claims stating that COVID-19 vaccines have killed children. Many claims have cited the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System federal database as a source to prove that vaccines have killed hundreds of children. But VAERS reports aren’t verified for accuracy before being published. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have warned continuously that reports often "lack details and sometimes can have information that contains errors." That makes VAERS a breeding ground for misinformation.
"Nationally comprehensive vaccine safety monitoring systems administered by both FDA and CDC have found no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination is causing or contributing to deaths in children," a CDC spokesperson told PolitiFact in another fact check.
German media broadcaster Deutsche Welle fact-checked several claims from around the world regarding children and the COVID-19 vaccine, stating that "there is no evidence to suggest that a COVID-19 vaccine is dangerous for young children." United Kingdom-based Full Fact also reported that these types of claims don’t have evidence to back them up.
A Twitter post claimed the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 vaccines are being used to kill children.
The clip and the post misconstrues that quote. The WHO confirmed that Tedros stumbled over the word "children," before immediately correcting himself and pronouncing the word correctly. That’s supported by public statements by Tedros and the WHO.
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has harmed or killed children. Both WHO and the CDC state that the vaccine has been proven safe to protect people against COVID-19, and fact-checking reports from around the world state that claims like this don’t have evidence to back them up.
We rate this claim False.
Twitter post, Dec. 22, 2021
World Health Organization, COVID-19 advice for the public: Getting vaccinated, Nov. 15, 2021
World Health Organization, Interim statement on COVID-19 vaccination for children and adolescents, Nov. 24, 2021
World Health Organization, WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing for Geneva-based journalists, Dec. 20, 2021
PolitiFact, There’s no proof that COVID-19 vaccine has injured or killed more than 900 children, May 26, 2021
Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, Guide to Interpreting VAERS Data, accessed Dec. 23, 2021
PolitiFact, Federal VAERS database is a critical tool for researchers, but a breeding ground for misinformation, May 3, 2021
PolitiFact, Report that teen died 2 days after a COVID shot was unverified, isn’t confirmed, May 6, 2021
Deutsche Welle, Fact check: Should 5- to 11-year-olds be vaccinated against COVID-19? Nov. 27, 2021
Full Fact, No evidence linking deaths among children to vaccine rollout, Nov. 4, 2021
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