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Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was approved by the FDA. Then the Internet dunked on its bizarre brand name: ‘Comirnaty’

A nurse reached for a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic in the Arleta neighborhood of Los Angeles Monday.
A nurse reached for a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic in the Arleta neighborhood of Los Angeles Monday.ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

In a landmark decision, the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday.

But when the news reached social media — where arguably no one and nothing is safe — the historic achievement by the pharmaceutical company was not the only thing that stood out to people. It was the name it will be marketed as: Comirnaty.

Try saying that three times fast. The FDA was gracious enough to note the pronunciation of the vaccine in its press release announcing the news of its approval (koe-mir’-na-tee) but that did not stop the Internet from immediately pouncing.

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“I don’t know why Comirnaty sounds more like an Irish village to me than a vaccine but regardless this approval is a pandemic milestone,” wrote Mark Lewis, the director of gastrointestinal oncology at Intermountain Medical Oncology in Utah.

Since “a lot of people are asking,” wrote Ben Wakana, deputy director of strategic communications and engagement on the White House COVID-19 Response Team, “the correct pronunciation of Comirnaty is: ‘keepz-u-out-of-the-hospital-saves-UR-life-protects-your-community.’”

From users forming new renditions of classic songs with “Comirnaty” as the starring lyric to comparing the creation of the name to a school group project gone horribly wrong, the memes and pointed remarks were abundant.

“The person(s) who came up with this name should never be allowed to name anything ever again,” wrote Christopher Bouzy, the founder of Bot Sentinel. “They shouldn’t even be allowed to name their pets.”

The Portland Press Herald, which has a knack for responding to people and communicating the news in a deadpan or snarky fashion on the Maine newspaper’s Twitter account, seized on the hilarity.

“The Pfizer vaccine will be marketed under the brand name ‘Comirnaty,’ proving that people who know how to make life saving vaccines don’t also know how to name stuff,” the paper wrote.

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When asked by a user what name they would have preferred instead, the Portland publication responded simply: “Baja Blast,” otherwise known as the bright teal Mountain Dew concoction.

“I feel like the brainstorm session that came up with the name ‘Comirnaty’ either ended too soon or went on way too long,” wrote physician Nick Mark.

But “amazingly,” wrote Jacob Rubashkin, a reporter and analyst for Inside Elections, Comirnaty “was not even the worst name” considered for the vaccine.

It was the appropriately named Brand Institute that came up with “Comirnaty.” The “industry heavyweight” began working with BioNTech in April 2020, the trade publication Fierce Pharma reported in December. Pfizer joined the effort shortly after the “duo’s vaccine collaboration was announced.”

“The name is coined from COVID-19 immunity, and then embeds the mRNA in the middle, which is the platform technology, and as a whole the name is meant to evoke the word community,” Scott Piergrossi, the company’s president of operations and communications, told the publication.

Other names reportedly considered by Pfizer-BioNTech included Covuity, RnaxCovi, Kovimerna, and RNXtract.

Defector columnist Drew Magary compared the name to how he imagined a Philly resident would pronounce “community.” He added that it would be “amusing if Pfizer did a big ad blitz for Comirnaty without mentioning it’s the COVID vaccine AT ALL. Like if they just said ‘Promotes lung girth!’ and jabs suddenly went up nationwide by 60%.”

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Meanwhile, Moderna locked up the name “Spikevax” for its vaccine — nailing down approval from the European Medicine Association for the brand name in June, “even as it awaits an FDA decision,” Fierce Pharma reported.

Some, like Insider columnist Josh Barro, were quick to quip that the “Moderna shot has a cool brand name” while the “Pfizer shot has a loser brand name.”

“Squares can get the now-FDA-approved Pfizer Comirnaty or be a rebel and get the EUAed Spikevax,” added Northwestern University emergency doctor Seth Trueger.

Regardless of the Internet’s musings on the name, Comirnaty isn’t going anywhere.

“Still not over the name Comirnaty,” wrote Charlie Warzel.

If social media is any indication, others likely feel the same.


Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.