A PR firm that represents big pharma companies like Pfizer and Moderna has been revealed to staff certain divisions in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the pandemic, sparking questions regarding potential conflicts of interest.

Based in New York, Weber Shandwick is reportedly the second-largest PR firm in the world with revenues of over $830 million and around 4,700 employees worldwide. It has employees working inside the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)—the section of the agency that implements vaccine programs and oversees the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), according to an exposé newsletter by investigative journalist Paul D. Thacker.

A “$50 million contract allows PR firm to be ‘embedded at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as part of the Division of Viral Diseases team,’” said Thacker in a tweet Tuesday, adding details like Linkedin information on employees of the PR firm working within the CDC.

“I started sending questions to the CDC last week, contacting CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, yesterday. The CDC still refuses to respond,” he said.

Weber Shandwick won a CDC contract potentially worth $50 million in October 2020 to promote influenza vaccines as well as the agency. Based on NCIRD documents, Weber employees would handle communications, marketing, and promotion tours for suggested actions during outbreaks and vaccine recommendations.

Thacker pointed to a Linkedin account of a former Weber employee detailing his duties at the CDC “focuses on boosting vaccination rates for flu, HPV, whooping cough, and COVID-19.”

In November 2020, Pfizer announced that its COVID-19 vaccine met all primary efficacy endpoints during clinical trials, and the following month, the FDA granted the company Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine rollout.

Conflicts and Profits

Weber Shandwick has worked with Pfizer since at least 2006, and partnered with Moderna in June 2022 after the success of the company’s international rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

According to Daily Mail, a spokesperson for Weber Shandwick told the media outlet that the firm had a “thorough vetting and mitigation process to avoid conflicts.”

Controlling about 70 percent of the U.S. and European markets, Pfizer brought in roughly over $81 billion in 2021, largely from its COVID-19 shot. This year, the company is on target to rake in over $50 billion globally from just the vaccine and the antiviral Paxlovid used to treat early symptoms of COVID.

Last year, Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna combined brought in an estimated pre-tax profit of $1,000 a second, $65,000 a minute, or $93.5 million a day. Booster jabs, currently recommended for everyone over 12 years, are expected to keep minting the coffers of the pharma companies.

Pivoting Stances

In a stunning admission on Oct. 10, a Pfizer executive said that the company did not know whether its COVID-19 vaccine would stop transmission before it entered the market in 2021.

“Did we know about stopping immunization before it entered the market? No … we had to really move at the speed of science to really understand what is taking place in the market,” said Pfizer’s Janine Small, president of international developed markets, in response to a question by Member of the European Parliament, Rob Roos.

“Millions of people worldwide felt forced to get vaccinated because of the myth that ‘you do it for others,’” Roos said in Twitter video on the same day. “Now, this turned out to be a cheap lie” and “should be exposed,” he added.

Dr. Martin Kulldorf, Professor of Medicine at Harvard (on leave), had worked with the CDC to develop its vaccine safety evaluation system. “It is concerning that CDC talking points are provided by the same public relations company that works for the vaccine manufacturers,” he said, per Thacker’s newsletter.

“To ensure public trust, CDC must provide accurate, science-based evidence on vaccines,” Kulldorf said. “They have failed to do so.”

The CDC fired Kulldorf following his disagreement with the agency on discontinuing the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine—a competitor of Pfizer and Moderna, said Thacker.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the CDC and Weber Shandwick.


Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.

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