Fact Check

Is Thailand Banning the Pfizer Vaccine After Princess Bajrakitiyabha Fell Into Coma?

Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati has been in a coma since December 2022. This fact has been abused by anti-vaccine activists.

Published Feb. 7, 2023

 ( Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Image Via Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Claim:
Because Thai Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati fell into a coma weeks after receiving a third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the government of Thailand is banning Pfizer vaccines from the country and suing the company for damages.
Context

While Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati has been in a coma since mid-December 2022, claims she had recently been vaccinated, that she had been vaccinated with a Pfizer shot, and that the Thai government was banning Pfizer shots as a result, all stem from a single scientist who has promoted a prolific amount of COVID-19 misinformation since early in the pandemic. Officials in Thailand have explicitly rejected that scientist's claims.

In early February 2023, anti-vaccine websites ran with a factually deficient story about a member of the Thai royal family — Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati — falling into a coma. The event happened, allegedly, about "23 days" after she received her third Pfizer shot. 

While it was factually true that Bajrakitiyabha was (at the time of this reporting) in a coma that began when she fell ill on Dec. 14, any links to vaccination are entirely speculative, without evidence, and promoted by conspiracy theorists. Long-time COVID-19 conspiracy theorist Sharyl Attkisson, for example, claimed that:

About three weeks after her third Pfizer booster shot, Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati collapsed with heart issues and went into a coma.

The 44-year old eldest daughter of the King in Thailand, and likely heir to the throne, had reported to be in excellent health prior to the vaccination and collapse[d] while training her dogs. [...]

One authority recently suggested that Thailand was preparing to declare its contracts for Pfizer vaccine "null and void" and go after the vaccine maker for damages.

Anti-vaccine website Health Impact News made this same claim, explaining that it was based on an interview between Sucharit Bhakdi, a German-Thai retired scientist, and Pascal Najadi, a self-described retired Swiss banker attempting to sue the president of Switzerland for embracing the Pfizer vaccine: 

Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, a German-Thai microbiologist, describes going to Thailand and informing the royal family that the health issues the Princess Bajrakitiyabha is experiencing have been caused by the COVID vaccines she received.

Dr. Bhakdi claims that officials in Thailand are upset, and are taking actions to nullify their contract with Pfizer and will seek billions of dollars in compensation.

Bhakdi is the purported "authority" cited by Attkisson, as well. In that interview, Bhakdi asserts as fact several things that are at best unsubstantiated. These include the assertion that the princess recently was vaccinated with a Pfizer vaccine and that the government of Thailand takes Bhakdi seriously:

One daughter of the present king Rama X collapsed and is in a coma… within 23 days after the third shot, 44 years old, never been seriously ill, collapsed and is now in a coma. The diagnosis that was given by the authorities and by the university is so ridiculous – she's supposed to have a bacterial infection that will never do what she suffered from. 

And so we are determined, and the activists in Thailand who have been on this many many months now – great guys, also a professor from the University of Bangkok, he's gotten in touch with the Royal Family, and we are sending information to the Royal Family to alert them to the fact that in all probability the princess is suffering as a victim of this jab, as so many people around the world have been suffering.

First, it is a misreading of this statement to suggest that Bhakdi claims he spoke with any member of the Thai government or royal family directly. Based on the actual full interview, Bhakdi spoke with "activists in Thailand" who then claim to have sent that information to the royal family. 

Second, Bhakdi is not a credible source of information on COVID-19 or on vaccines. He is, in reality, an overtly anti-semitic conspiracy theorist and political figure who has been a repeated source of demonstrably false information about the pandemic since March 2020. He is the founder of an anti-lockdown political party in Germany that embraces several conspiracy theories about the virus.

Third, the only source on the princess' vaccination status is Bhakdi, who does not state how or when he came across that information. There is, literally, no other source for the claim that the princess was recently vaccinated, or that such a vaccination, if it occurred, was a Pfizer vaccine. 

Fourth, nobody in the Thai government or Thai royal family has corroborated the claim that Thailand is abandoning the Pfizer vaccine or beginning any legal action against them. Such a claim merely represents a pipe dream discussed by two individuals steeped in COVID conspiracy theories on a YouTube channel that has, for some reason, been promoted as an authoritative source. 

Fifth, and most authoritatively, is the fact that the Thai government has explicitly stated that the claims made by Bhakdi are false, describing them as "fake news."

For all these reasons, the claim that Thailand is suing Pfizer over a coma their vaccine caused a member of the royal family is "False."

Sources

44-Year-Old Thai Princess Bajrakitiyabha in Coma After Pfizer COVID Shots – Thailand to Nullify Contract with Pfizer. 4 Feb. 2023, https://healthimpactnews.com/2023/44-year-old-thai-princess-bajrakitiyabha-in-coma-after-pfizer-covid-shots-thailand-to-nullify-contract-with-pfizer/.

"Impfung gegen Covid-19 "sinnlos"? Sucharit Bhakdi stellt unbelegte Behauptungen auf." correctiv.org, 19 June 2020, https://correctiv.org/faktencheck/2020/06/19/impfung-gegen-covid-19-sinnlos-sucharit-bhakdi-stellt-unbelegte-behauptungen-auf/.

"Jews 'Learned Evil' From Nazis: Leading COVID-19 Conspiracy Theorist in Germany Loses Publisher Over Antisemitic Comments." Algemeiner.Com, https://www.algemeiner.com/2021/07/16/jews-learned-evil-from-nazis-leading-covid-19-conspiracy-theorist-in-germany-loses-publisher-over-antisemitic-comments/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

K O N K R E T - Discussion with Prof. Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi NEWS from the Royal Palace in Thailand. rumble.com, https://rumble.com/v27hvzx-k-o-n-k-r-e-t-discussion-with-prof.-dr.-sucharit-bhakdi-news-from-the-royal.html. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

"Princess Still Unconscious." Bangkok Post. www.bangkokpost.com, https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/2478074/princess-still-unconscious. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

"Swiss Banker Pascal Najadi Files Criminal Charges against New Swiss President Alain Berset ." Daily News Egypt, https://dailynewsegypt.com/2022/12/10/swiss-banker-pascal-najadi-files-criminal-charges-against-new-swiss-president-alain-berset/.

The Mysterious Collapse of Thai Princess after 3rd Covid Booster | Sharyl Attkisson. https://sharylattkisson.com/2023/02/the-mysterious-collapse-of-thai-princess-after-3rd-covid-booster/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

"Unsubstantiated Claims by Michael Palmer and Sucharit Bhakdi Don't Demonstrate That COVID-19 Vaccines Harm Organs." Health Feedback, 3 Sept. 2022, https://healthfeedback.org/claimreview/unsubstantiated-claims-by-michael-palmer-sucharit-bhakdi-dont-demonstrate-covid-19-vaccines-harm-organs/.

Wong, Adrian. "Did Thailand Ban Pfizer Vaccine Over Princess' Coma?!" TechArp, https://www.techarp.com/facts/thailand-ban-pfizer-vaccine-facts/.

ข่าวปลอม อย่าแชร์! https://ddc.moph.go.th/odpc5/news.php?news=31847&deptcode=odpc5. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.