4 December 2023

False: Monkeypox has nothing to do with Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines

Monkeypox has been reported in 77 countries including India, Russia, and Venezuela where the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is not available. Experts say there is no link between the two.


A tweet shared on July 24 claimed monkeypox has only spread in countries where the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer/BioNTech has been distributed.

The tweet contains two world maps; one highlighting countries that have reported monkeypox cases and the other showing countries where the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is available.

Several tweets in English (here, here, and here), one tweet in Russian, and another in French were found with similar claims and the same maps.

In total, these tweets have 237 likes and 151 retweets when writing. A similar claim with the same images was also found on a Facebook post.

However, these claims are false.

Annie Lab found that the two maps were made more than a year apart.

The one showing the recorded monkeypox cases is dated June 17 this year. It was produced by the World Health Organization, indicating the cases reported between Jan. 1 and June 15, 2022.

The second map was included in an article published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal. It shows the distribution of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by country but this record is more than a year old (as of May 16, 2021).

In fact, according to the latest statistics by Pfizer, the vaccine has been distributed in at least 180 nations, more than 90% of all countries in the world, as of July 3 this year.

Comparison of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine distribution as of July 3, 2022 (right) with the old map used in the misleading tweet (left).

But even with the latest data, the association between the vaccine and monkeypox has no validity.

For example, according to the WHO, Venezuela has reported monkeypox infection but the country has not approved or imported Pfizer/BioNTech jab as of July 3.

The COVID-19 vaccine tracker lists Abdala, Soberana 02, EpiVacCorona, Sputnik Light, Sputnik V, Covilo, and CoronaVac as approved vaccines in Venezuela. The U.S. Embassy in the country also has the same information online.

Maps from the WHO and Pfizer show no Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is available in Venezuela while one case of monkeypox has been reported there.

Other countries with reported monkeypox where Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are unavailable include Russia and India.

Meanwhile, there are many places with no reported monkeypox infection to date where Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are available, such as Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Experts say the COVID-19 vaccine does not cause monkeypox and the two cannot be associated in any way.

Siddharth Sridhar, a virologist and clinical assistant professor at the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, told Annie Lab in an email that there is absolutely no link between the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and monkeypox.

Monkeypox precedes the COVID-19 pandemic and the development of vaccines against the disease. The first human case of monkeypox was identified in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to the WHO, it is caused by a virus and is zoonotic, meaning the infection spreads from animals to humans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States (CDC) said it is transmitted person-to-person through direct contact with scabs, body fluids, and respiratory secretions.

On July 23, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the monkeypox outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which means cases of infection have gone beyond the countries where they are usually reported, requiring a “prompt international action.”

The U.S. CDC says 20,638 monkeypox cases have been reported in at least 77 countries between Jan. 1 and July 27.

Previously, news outlets such as AFP and Reuters have debunked similar claims linking monkeypox to the side effects of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.