Twitter suspends Just the News founder for report on legal distinctions between COVID vaccines
FDA has acknowledged Pfizer's first vaccine, issued under emergency use, is legally different from fully approved Comirnaty.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
Twitter suspended the account of Just the News founder John Solomon for sharing an article about the legal distinctions between Pfizer's fully approved and emergency use authorization (EUA) COVID-19 vaccines, which could affect the legality of vaccine mandates.
The social media company is also warning users who click the link to the article from individual tweets that it "may be unsafe" and "could lead to real-world harm." An immunologist who reviewed the article told Just the News he saw nothing wrong with it factually.
Solomon's Dec. 27 tweet shared the link and headline: "Pfizer to continue distributing version of COVID-19 vaccine not fully approved by FDA."
The report noted that Pfizer and several experts have claimed that the fully approved Comirnaty vaccine has the same ingredients and manufacturing process as the EUA vaccine, known as Pfizer-BioNTech.
But it also cited the FDA's acknowledgment that the two are "legally distinct" owing to more stringent requirements for the Comirnaty vaccine, whose biologics license application (BLA) was approved.
In a legal challenge to the U.S. military's vaccine mandate, a federal judge ruled in November that "FDA licensure does not retroactively apply to [EUA vaccine] vials shipped before BLA approval." U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor cited DOD guidance that limits mandates to fully approved vaccines, which must be "produced at approved facilities."
"It is outrageous and unfair that a story that is completely accurate and points out an important legal distinction between the two versions of vaccines gets blocked and my account suspended," Solomon told Just the News.
"The distinction was important enough for a federal judge to note. The story and my post weren't unsafe," he said. "The only threat is to the safety of the 1st Amendment afflicted by Twitter's wrongheaded decision."
"I can see how Twitter might object to the title, but the article itself seems ok as far as I understand it," Indiana University immunologist Steve Templeton wrote in an email when asked by Just the News to review the article for factual inaccuracies. "Seems like a legal issue if the two [vaccines] are only different in how they were labeled or when they were packaged."
According to the notice Solomon received, Twitter "temporarily limited" his account features for 12 hours because the tweet violates its policy on "spreading misleading and potentially harmful information" related to COVID.
The prohibition includes content that "goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information." The notice didn't specify how the tweet violated the policy.
"There is nothing in the story that is not well reported or misleading," Stanford School of Medicine professor Jay Bhattacharya, whose research focuses on the "health and well-being of vulnerable populations," wrote in an email to Just the News. "Twitter’s censorship of COVID information has contributed greatly to the collapse in trust in public health."
"It is scary to live in such censorship, which also lea[d]s to self censorship," Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff, a frequent victim of social media censorship, wrote in an email to Just the News.
A pioneer in vaccine safety, he said he's never argued against vaccine mandates on the basis of legal distinctions. "My understanding is that biologically/chemically, [Comirnaty] is the same vaccine, so it's efficacy and side effects are the same."
For Kulldorff, the "strongest" anti-mandate argument is that "2500 years of scientific knowledge" shows the superiority of natural immunity from COVID versus vaccination.
The suspension has prevented Solomon from posting to his account on Tuesday. His social media manager, Kate Zickel, told Just the News they learned of the suspension Tuesday morning but "it probably happened around midnight or early this morning."
She deleted the tweet rather than appeal the suspension, which would lock the account "for an unknown period of time." The suspension was scheduled to expire early Tuesday night.
A lawyer quoted in the article, R. Davis Younts, told Just the News that Twitter did not suspend him for sharing the article with the same headline in his tweet.
It's Twitter's second known suspension of a JTN staffer's account for comments about vaccines, which it lifted after the CDC confirmed the tweet was accurate.
It's the first JTN-related suspension since the social media company quietly revised its COVID "misleading information policy" earlier this month.
Twitter didn't answer requests from Just the News to specify what was misleading and potentially harmful about Solomon's tweet.