Corona pandemic: Russian disinformation campaign against Biontech vaccine


Russian secret services are behind a campaign aimed at undermining trust in Western vaccines against Covid-19. This is what officials from US government agencies claim to the Wall Street Journal. They therefore refer to several websites that are said to be behind the secret services and spread the wrong narratives about vaccines like the one from Pfizer and the German company Biontech. A think tank found something similar when analyzing hundreds of social media accounts with connections to the governments of Russia, China and Iran, but only with regard to the Pfizer vaccine and less so to western alternatives.

The disinformation campaign was described to the US newspaper by an unnamed representative of the Global Engagement Center, which analyzes such actions for the US State Department. Four different publications on the Internet, which are directly linked to Russian secret services by the center, spread false or misleading statements about Western vaccines against Covid-19. Although the four did not have a large readership, their content could be distributed more widely by Russian or international media, warns the government representative. The media are called “New Eastern Outlook”, “Oriental Review”, “News Front” and “Rebel Inside”.

The government representative did not provide any evidence of the alleged connection to Russian secret services and other Russian institutions, writes the Wall Street Journal nor, which is also criticized in the article. As an example of the alleged disinformation, articles are cited in which the publications took up actual news reports about the vaccines. In doing so, however, the focus was on complications or risks, while information and details on the general safety of the vaccines would be left out. The vaccines have now been administered millions of times, but most of the complications were isolated cases.

Going in a similar direction die Analyse der “Alliance for Securing Democracy”, which is part of the German Marshall Fund Foundation. To this end, more than 35,000 messages in social networks that were distributed by diplomats, government officials and state media from Russia, China and Iran and were related to vaccines were examined. The vaccine from Pfizer and Biontech was mentioned particularly often, and the accounts from Russia and Iran were particularly critical. Around 90 percent of the contributions were negative. But one could not conclude that all of the posts about Western vaccines had been negative. The contributions to the vaccine from Moderna were “mixed” and those from Oxford University and AstraZeneca were neutral or positive.

According to the analysis, the most common links between the Pfizer vaccine and deaths were made in Russian accounts. It is unclear why this vaccine was criticized so much. It could be because it was the first to be approved from the “West” and was therefore considered the most important competitor for vaccines from Russia or China. The Russian way of handling the AstraZeneca vaccine has meanwhile changed significantly after attempts with a combination of this and the Russian vaccine Sputnik V were announced. Russia and China also only advertised their own vaccines, not each other.


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