PR Firm Works for Moderna and Pfizer, While Staffing the CDC’s Vaccine Office

Paul Thacker | 11 Oct 2022

A potential $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.”

Early last month, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky endorsed recommendations by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for updated COVID-19 boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

“This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion,” Dr. Walensky said in a statement. “If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”

The American Medical Association welcomed the ACIP recommendation, while Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, splashed cold water on the decision. “The CDC risks eroding the public’s trust by overselling the new shot,” he warned in the Wall Street Journal.

The pharma industry—at least part of it—was likely less conflicted about the CDC’s decision, as the boardrooms of both Pfizer and Moderna have witnessed unprecedented sales and eye watering profits since introducing their COVID-19 vaccines. The companies’ success before the CDC also signals a win for the PR firm Weber Shandwick, which has long represented Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies and began providing public relations support to Moderna sometime in 2020.

In an odd case of synchronicity—and let’s be honest, a whiff of undue influence—Weber Shandwick employees are also embedded at the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), the CDC group that implements vaccine programs and oversees the work of ACIP. “So excited to be starting a new role today,” wrote a Weber Shandwick employee 11 months ago on her LinkedIn account. “I’m joining Weber Shandwick as an Account Director supporting a contract I know well, at CDC’s NCIRD!”

“Welcome back to the team!” responded another Weber Shandwick employee.

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