US officials believe that Russia is conducting a disinformation campaign to discredit the Pfizer COVID vaccine. Russian intelligence has been trying to question the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine in an effort to push its own Sputnik V vaccine.
Four publications acting as a front for Russian intelligence agencies have sounded a disinformation beep, trying to convince Americans that approval of the Pfizer vaccine was rushed and shortcuts were taken.
“We can say that these media are directly linked to the Russian intelligence services,” an official from the State Department’s Center for Global Engagement told the newspaper. “They are all foreign-owned, based outside of the United States. They vary a lot in their scope, their tone, their audience, but they are all part of the Russian propaganda and disinformation ecosystem. “
Russia announced a successful coronavirus vaccine in August, but Sputnik V was approved under questionable circumstances. It was released before going through phase 3 testing. In the United States, phase 3 is a requirement before a drug or vaccine can be tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The hasty timeline led health officials to speculate whether the Kremlin coerced vaccine makers to quickly launch Sputnik V to gain a lead in the global race for a cure for the novel coronavirus.
China is also in the game, signing vaccine deals with several countries. But it goes without saying that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the gold standard and the most sought after worldwide.
The problem for other countries is getting some. The United States is “stockpiling vaccines” according to the WHO because we are choosing to vaccinate our own citizens before giving it to others. This is where the Russian Sputnik V vaccine can make inroads into this mass market, and Russian intelligence is doing everything it can to help.
Wall Street Journal:
“The emphasis on denigrating Pfizer is likely due to its status as the first vaccine, other than Sputnik V, to see massive use, resulting in a greater potential threat to Sputnik’s market dominance,” says a report by forthcoming publication of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a non-governmental organization that focuses on the danger that authoritarian governments pose to democracies and is part of the German Marshall Fund, a group of US experts.
Foreign efforts to cast doubt on the vaccine exploit deep-seated anxieties about the efficacy and side effects of vaccines that were already prevalent in some communities in the United States and internationally. Concern about side effects is one of the main reasons for doubts about vaccines, according to data from the US Census Bureau.
Additionally, Russian state media and Russian government Twitter accounts have made an effort to openly discredit and cast doubt on the cost and safety of the Pfizer vaccine.
The Russians have dismissed any idea that the FSB or GRU is involved in disinformation against COVID vaccines, but the publications mentioned by the State Department have deep ties to Russian intelligence and are not likely to run this type of campaign without the approval of senior intelligence officials.
Russia may do its worst, but its credibility on the issue of vaccines leaves much to be desired.