Russia is reportedly trying to blow up a coronavirus vaccine being developed by Britain’s Oxford University, claiming it could turn humans into monkeys.
Videos, images and memes created in Russia have flooded social media to discredit the vaccine, which will be distributed by pharmaceutical giant Astrazeneca, claiming that it uses the chimpanzee virus as a vector, according to The Times of the UK.
The disinformation campaign is aimed at Western countries and countries where Russia plans to sell its controversial COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik-V, which critics have expressed concern after Moscow quickly tracked it down before a phase 3 human trial, according to a newspaper study.
Russia̵7;s efforts could hurt not only the Oxford program, but also the key to global efforts to protect against the deadly mistake, encouraging conspiracy theorists and anti-waxsex, writes The Times.
“Misinformation is an obvious risk to public health,” said Astrazeneca CEO Pascal Soriot. “I urge everyone to use reliable sources of information, to trust regulators and to remember the enormous benefits that vaccines and medicines continue to bring to humanity.”
A source in the British government has condemned the “reckless and contemptuous behavior” of those behind the effort, which “could cause real harm to human health”.
The source added: “Such lies are fundamentally harmful to all of us around the world, and we must be vigilant to detect and counter this activity to support the provision of factual information to all people about Covid-19 and vaccines.”
The Times said it received monkey work from someone involved in a disinformation campaign who was concerned about its impact on health efforts.
The whistleblower said the main goal was to post memes on Western websites and in countries such as India and Brazil, where Russia is trying to sell Sputnik-V.
Although it was unclear whether the Kremlin directly authorized the actions, there are reports that some Russian officials were involved in its organization and distribution, the newspaper said.
But Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat said he had no doubt that the Russian state was behind the campaign.
“It simply came to our notice then. “Russia is a very centralized state, and the idea that it will be done without the approval of those around us is laughable,” he told the Times.
Ken McCallum, head of Britain’s MI5 Security Service, said this week that his office was involved in protecting British vaccine research from attacks.
“The global prize for the first suitable vaccine is big,” he added.
The disinformation campaign was also targeted at Russian state media, including Moscow’s Vesti Noviny program, where some images appeared last month, according to The Times.
Reports of these efforts echo the statements of top Kremlin officials describing the “monkey vaccine” – as opposed to the Russian vaccine received from human adenovirus.
People are already hesitant to get injections when new vaccines are introduced.
In August, a survey by King’s College London and Ipsos Mori found that one in six respondents said they would definitely not get or are unlikely to get shot.
And a new US survey found that only 70 percent of respondents want to be vaccinated – and about half wanted to wait until they were sure the vaccine was safe, according to The Times.
A spokesman for the Russian embassy told the newspaper: “The assumption that the Russian state can carry out any propaganda against the Astrazeneca vaccine is in itself an example of misinformation.
“This is obviously aimed at discrediting Russia’s efforts to combat the pandemic, including the good cooperation we have established with the UK in this area.”