Russia will go bananas in an effort to weaken a coronavirus vaccine developed by Britain’s Oxford University – which it says could turn people into monkeys, according to one report.
Videos, images and memes created in Russia flooded social media to discredit the vaccine – set to be distributed by pharma giant Astrazeneca – by claiming it uses a chimpanzee virus as a vector, The Times of UK.
The disinformation campaign is aimed at Western countries and countries where Russia plans to sell the controversial COVID-19 vaccine, the Sputnik-V, in which critics expressed concern after it was quickly followed. of Moscow before the stage of 3 human trials, according to the paper investigation.
Russia̵7;s efforts could harm not only the Oxford program but also throw a monkey wrench at the wider global effort to protect against deadly bugs by encouraging conspiracy theorists and counter-vaxxers, reported of The Times.
“Misinformation is a clear public health hazard,” Astrazeneca chief Pascal Soriot told the outlet. “I invite everyone to use a reliable source of information, to trust control agencies and to remember the tremendous benefits of vaccines and drugs that continue to be brought to humanity.”
A UK government source has condemned the “reckless and disgusting behavior” of those behind the effort, which “could lead to real harm to people’s health.”
The source added: “This kind of lie is fundamentally harmful to all of us around the world and we need to be alert to identify and counteract this type of activity to support providing real information for all people about Covid-19 and vaccines. “
The Times said they got the simian handiwork from someone involved in the disinformation campaign who was concerned about its impact on public health efforts.
The whistleblower told the outlet that one of the main goals was to put the memes on websites in the West and in countries like India and Brazil, where Russia is trying to sell Sputnik-V.
Although it is not clear whether the Kremlin directly authorized the effort, there is evidence that some Russian officials were involved in its organization and dispersal, the paper reported.
But Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat said he had no doubt that the Russian state was behind the campaign.
“It has always been. Russia is a very centralized state and the idea that it can do it without someone’s approval in the inner circle is ridiculous,” he told Times Radio.
Ken McCallum, head of the UK MI5 Security Service, said this week that his agency was involved in protecting British vaccine research from attacks.
“The global reward of having the first useful vaccine is a huge one,” he added.
The disinformation campaign also focused on Russian state media outlets, including Moscow’s Vesti News program, where some of the images appeared last month, The Times reported.
The messaging of the effort suggests statements from top Kremlin officials describing a “monkey vaccine” – this is in contrast to the Russian inoculation derived from a human adenovirus.
People are expressing hesitation about getting jabbed when new vaccines are rolled out.
In August, research by King’s College London and Ipsos Mori found that one in six respondents to a poll said they were not or could not be shot.
And a new U.S. poll found that only 70 percent of respondents want to be vaccinated – and nearly half want to wait until they make sure the vaccines are safe, The Times reported.
A Russian embassy in the paper said: “The suggestion that the Russian state could carry out any kind of propaganda against the Astrazeneca vaccine is an example of disinformation itself.
“Clearly this is aimed at undermining Russia’s efforts to fight the pandemic, including the good cooperation we have established in the UK in this field.”