Russia launches propaganda campaign over Covid-19 vaccine
The Kremlin is accused of spreading fear about the Covid-19 serum, claiming it will turn people into monkeys.
The Russians base the suggestion on the fact the vaccine is using a chimpanzee virus.
The Russians have disseminated pictures and memes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson looking like “a yeti”.
It’s captioned: “I like my bigfoot vaccine”.
And other shows a “monkey” scientist holding a syringe and working on the treatment.
The monkey is wearing an AstraZeneca lab coat.
The pharmaceutical giant is at the forefront of developing a vaccine.
Last month the London Globe and the EU Reporter carried stories about the Russian campaign.
Both publications have since removed two articles from their online sites.
Publisher Colin Stevens said:
“We were given the story by a freelance journalist in Brussels.
“However, after an investigation by The Times we now know the story has no basis.
“When I heard the stories were false, they were taken down straightaway.
“Sadly, we have been the unwilling victims of a Russian campaign to discredit the excellent work being done by Oxford University scientists.
“Even the very best get caught out now and again.
“Indeed, even the Sunday Times was fooled into publishing the fake ‘Hitler Diaries’ some years ago.”
AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot condemned attempts to undermine their work.
He said: “Scientists at AstraZeneca and at many other companies and institutions around the world are working tirelessly to develop a vaccine and therapeutic treatments to defeat this virus.
“But it is independent experts and regulatory agencies across the world that ultimately decide if a vaccine is safe and effective before it is approved for use.
“Misinformation is a clear risk to public health.
“This is especially true during the current pandemic which continues to claim tens of thousands of lives, significantly disrupt the way we live and damage the economy.”
Professor Pollard, who is professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme:
“The type vaccine we have is very very similar to a number of other vaccines, including the Russian vaccine, all of which use the common cold virus from humans or from chimpanzees.
“To our bodies, the viruses look the same.
“We don’t actually have any chimpanzees involved at all in the process of making the vaccine, because it is all about the virus, rather than animals it might more commonly
Meanwhile, Doctor Hilary Jones told Good Morning Britain the attempts at disinformation were “utterly ridiculous and shameful”.
He added: “Oxford have a fantastic reputation; they are doing this thoroughly and are looking at thousands of people from all different groups and ages.
“They are doing this safely and effectively and for the Russians to try to besmirch what they are trying to do because parts of the vaccine comes from chimpanzee material is utterly ridiculous and shameful.
“I would put my money on Oxford every time.”
A Russian Embassy spokesman in London said:
“The suggestion that the Russian state may conduct any kind of propaganda against the AstraZeneca vaccine is itself an example of disinformation.
“It is obviously aimed at discrediting Russia’s efforts in combating the pandemic, including the good co-operation we have established with the UK in this field.”