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Texas AG sues Pfizer, claims its vaccine made people believe it would end the pandemic

Attorney General Ken Paxton accused Pfizer of lying about the efficacy of its Covid-19 vaccine.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing Pfizer, accusing the pharmaceutical company of lying about how effective its Covid-19 vaccine was and of not ending the pandemic as it had suggested.

"The COVID-19 vaccines are the miracle that wasn’t," according to the lawsuit, filed in Lubbock County state court on Thursday. "Placing their trust in Pfizer, hundreds of millions of Americans lined up to receive the vaccine. Contrary to Pfizer’s public statements, however, the pandemic did not end; it got worse."

Citing Pfizer’s claim that its vaccine was 95% effective against Covid-19, the complaint states that the public was "given the impression that Pfizer’s vaccine would end the coronavirus pandemic and lift the omnipresent veil of fear and uncertainty from an anxious public." The suit is seeking more than $10 million in fines and to limit what Pfizer can say about its vaccines' efficacy.

The suit cites the total 2021 death toll in the U.S., after Pfizer's vaccine was available, as being higher than in 2020. The claim leaves out a lot of context, however. As The Texas Tribune reports:

It’s true that the virus killed more people in 2021 — twice as many. But that’s a calendar-year measure of 12 months of full-on pandemic level infections, compared to less than nine months the year before, in which deaths were staying in the double digits in most states in the early weeks.

Of the 1.2 million Americans who have died from COVID since the first death was recorded in March 2020, more than half of them died within the first 12 months. By then, only a third of Americans had gotten the shot.

The lawsuit also paints the American public as being unduly susceptible to Pfizer's so-called misleading claims about its vaccine, when the overwhelming consensus among public health experts at the time was that the vaccines were key to mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.

The claims in the lawsuit appear to misrepresent the strategy the U.S. government adopted to combat the spread of Covid-19, particularly in the early months of the vaccines' rollout. Federal officials and health care experts repeatedly stressed that vaccines were not a silver bullet and would not provide total immunity against the virus. Vaccinations were but one (important) element in a comprehensive approach to containing Covid outbreaks — an approach that also included precautions like proper ventilation and mask-wearing.

In 2021, Texas did away with many of these additional safety measures. In March that year, Gov. Greg Abbott declared that Texas would be "open 100%" as he rolled back mask mandates and lifted restrictions on businesses. Abbott also issued executive orders to prohibit schools and local governments from requiring masks.

The state of Texas also filed several lawsuits against the Biden administration challenging vaccination mandates, including one that required vaccinations for federal contractors. This summer, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the federal government could not punish members of the Texas State Guard for skipping the shots. And the state just last month passed a law that prevents private businesses from imposing vaccination requirements for their employees.

Pfizer has dismissed Paxton's lawsuit as meritless. The company told Reuters in a statement that its representations of its vaccine have been “accurate and science-based” and that its vaccine has “demonstrated a favorable safety profile in all age groups, and helped protect against severe COVID-19 outcomes, including hospitalization and death.”

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