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• Claims that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine isn’t recommended while breastfeeding were based on outdated information from United Kingdom health officials — not from Pfizer — issued when the vaccine rollout was in its earliest stages. Once more safety data became available, UK officials updated their guidance and now recommend COVID-19 vaccination for those who are breastfeeding.
• Domestic baby formula shortages are linked to supply chain problems that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, plus the recall of some formula that led to a manufacturing plant shutdown.
• There’s no evidence that an investment in BIOMILQ – a startup that makes artificial breast milk – by a fund that Bill Gates is involved in has anything to do with the shortage.
A Facebook post linked several unfounded claims to create one conspiracy theory about U.S. baby formula shortages.
"(Pfizer) says do not breastfeed," the May 17 post said. "Baby formula shortages everywhere. Gates promotes brand new artificial breast milk technology. All within less than a 2 week period. …Nothing to see here. "
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.)
Each part of the claim has been previously debunked.
The claim that "(Pfizer) says do not breastfeed" appears to be a reference to falsehoods that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine isn’t recommended while breastfeeding. Those claims said the recommendation came from Pfizer, but included screenshots of a document published by United Kingdom health officials in late 2020, when COVID-19 vaccines were in their infancy and rollout had just begun, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.
When initially published in December 2020, the UK document said COVID-19 vaccines should not be used while breastfeeding. The guidelines "d(id) not indicate the shots are unsafe during pregnancy or while lactating but highlight a lack of data at the time of publication," Reuters reported.
The UK document was later updated to remove the language about vaccines not being recommended during breastfeeding. The change reflected updated safety data and evidence showing that the vaccine is safe for breastfeeding women, according to the AP.
The second part of the claim in the Facebook post implies that domestic baby formula shortages are planned or deliberate. But the shortages are linked to supply chain problems that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, plus the recall of some formula that led to a manufacturing plant shutdown.
Finally, the post claimed that "Gates promotes brand new artificial breast milk technology," and also implies a link to current baby formula shortages. A startup company called BIOMILQ that makes artificial breast milk received $3.5 million from an investment fund co-founded by Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. But the company says it’s still three to five years away from getting a product to market.
We rate this claim False.
Associated Press, "Posts misrepresent outdated UK document on COVID-19 vaccines," May 6, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding," May 16, 2022
Facebook post, May 17, 2022
PolitiFact, "Formula shortage isn’t related to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg investment in artificial breast milk," May 12, 2022
Reuters, "Fact Check-Screenshots do not show Pfizer declaring vaccines unsafe," May 6, 2022
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