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SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project

FDA-Approved ‘Electronic Pill’ Isn’t Evidence That COVID-19 Vaccine ‘Microchip’ Conspiracy Is ‘Proven’

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SciCheck Digest

COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain microchips and have readily available ingredient lists. But social media posts use an old clip of the Pfizer CEO talking about an “electronic pill” to leave the false impression he was confirming a conspiracy theory about microchips in the vaccines.

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The ingredient lists for the COVID-19 vaccines approved and authorized in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration are available online. The vaccines do not include microchips.

But the bogus claim that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips has been circulating for most of the pandemic. As research for COVID-19 vaccines began in 2020, conspiracy theories falsely claimed that the vaccines would contain microchips to track people, planted by Bill Gates or others.  

Years later, COVID-19 vaccine skeptics attempt to validate the claim that microchips are in the vaccines, using a 2018 video clip of Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, speaking about an “electronic pill” with a digital sensor that he said was approved by the FDA. The posts leave the false impression that Bourla’s remarks are recent and could concern the COVID-19 vaccines. 

But the clip is actually from the World Economic Forum held in January 2018, before the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines existed, and refers to a drug that was not developed by Pfizer and is meant for a specific set of patients, those with certain mental health conditions.

Turning Point USA, a conservative organization, shared the clip of Bourla on Facebook — without providing any context or connection to COVID-19 — with the caption “Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla PRAISED a pill with a chip at Davos…?! Y’ALL WHAT. #BigGovSucks.” Nonetheless, one user makes the link to the COVID-19 vaccines with the comment, “oh…just get the shot…nothing in it will bother you!…hahahaha!!!” 

The post has been viewed over 23,000 times, with similar posts racking up over 486,090 Facebook interactions, according to CrowdTangle.

Jimmy Dore, a frequent spreader of misinformation and host of the Jimmy Dore Show, did a segment about Bourla’s panel discussion at the World Economic Forum that was posted to the show’s YouTube channel on May 21 with a graphic that inaccurately states: “Another Conspiracy Proven True!” The YouTube description of the video, titled “Microchips In Pills To Force Compliance Are REAL Says Pfizer CEO,” also gives the wrong time frame for Bourla’s remarks, saying that “Bourla recently appeared” on the panel, when in fact it was four years ago.

In the video, Dore agreed with a tweet that said “another conspiracy ‘theory’ becomes conspiracy fact.” The video received over 168,000 views and 13,000 likes.

“So it’s not a conspiracy theory. The conspiracy was that the tracker was inside the vaccine. Yeah. They’re just working on compliance tracking. It just wasn’t ready yet. So you must feel like a real idiot if you thought that they were going to put that in the vaccine,” Dore said jokingly.  

Toward the end of the video, Dore jokes with his partner, comedian Kurt Metzger, that the pill might be good for psychiatric or “mental hospital” patients. 

Although he may have been joking, Dore was correct that the pills are used for psychiatric patients, but he never explains that’s exactly what Bourla was talking about. 

During the forum, panelists discussed patient engagement and how to ensure that patients take the medications they require, prompted by a question from the audience. 

“Even if you make the greatest drug or the greatest wearable, there’s no guarantee that the patient is going to take the drug or wear the device. So, how are you thinking about technology to engage the patient,” an audience member asked the panelists

The question elicited Bourla’s response, which was featured in the social media posts but had nothing to do with COVID-19 or vaccines. 

Bourla, January 2018: I think it’s fascinating what’s happening in this field right now. I mean, FDA approved the first electronic pill, if I can call it like that. So, it is basically a biological chip that is in the tablet and once we take the tablet and it dissolves, your stomach sends a signal that you took the tablet. So, imagine the implications of that, the compliance. The insurance companies to know that the medicines that patients should take, they do take them. It is fascinating what happens in this field but of course, there will be an initial cost that someone needs to invest.

Bourla was referring to Abilify MyCite, aripiprazole tablets with a sensor developed by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. and Proteus Digital Health. The FDA-approved pill is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar I disorder and major depression in adults and record when the medication is taken. The medication was approved in 2017, a few months before the 2018 World Economic Forum, and is used as a treatment, not a vaccination.

Abilify MyCite is the first approved drug in the U.S. with a digital ingestion tracking system, according to the FDA. It works by sending a message from the pill’s sensor to a wearable patch that transmits the information to a mobile application so that patients can track the ingestion of the medication on their smartphones.

FDA spokesperson April Grant confirmed to us in an email that Abilify MyCite is the only FDA-approved drug in the U.S. with this type of system. 

COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain microchips or any of the same materials as the Abilify MyCite tablets, FDA spokesperson Abby Capobianco told us in an email.

“These claims are completely false. The FDA authorized and approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any of the articles/materials in this allegation,” she said. “The list of ingredients in the vaccines may be found in the Fact Sheet for Recipient and Caregivers (found here on page 2 for Moderna and here on page 4 for Pfizer).”

Capobianco also said the FDA’s Review Memorandum for the Pfizer vaccine included “information on chemistry, manufacturing and controls for the vaccine,” and clinical testing information. 

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is 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. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.


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