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Almost all pharmaceuticals and laboratories worldwide are in a race against time to produce a viable and effective COVID-19 vaccine. This race also involves a monetary aspect in which companies want to be the first to sell the vaccines. However, in recent news, the race now became a global political battleground.
The news involves a conspiracy theory of Russia to the vaccine being made at the University of Oxford. London’s The Times posted an article claiming a Russian campaign was trying to spread disinformation about the said vaccine’s safety. A whistleblower surfaced with this information as he was concerned about the repercussions the campaign could do.
According to their findings, there are “pictures, memes, and video clips” portraying the vaccine as highly dangerous. The pictures include a depiction of chimpanzees and dubbing the vaccine as a “monkey vaccine.” One meme depicted Boris Johnson as a yeti with a caption, “I like my bigfoot vaccine.” Another one pictures a chimpanzee in a white lab coat with a syringe on hand.
The images and the conspiracy itself are very bizarre. The Times also added that the campaign is “seeking to “seed” the photos on social media networks around the world.”
Social media are indeed crowded with disinformation and fake news; some have a distant yet distorted relationship to the truth. For the conspiracy Russia’s started, it has a distant reality to it. As stated by the University of Oxford on their website, the vaccine uses “adenovirus that usually causes the common cold in chimpanzees.” The virus used in their vaccine is “harmless” and “weakened.”
Some people would be surprised by this fact, but the university cleared any doubts that will arise. They further say that “it has been shown to generate a strong immune response from one dose in other vaccines.”
The whistleblower further told The Times that the campaign would target countries where they’ll sell their manufactured vaccine, the Sputnik V. Images will be placed on Western websites and other countries like India and Brazil. The whistleblower added that online influencers, mostly Western, are getting paid to put the campaign on their social media platforms.
British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, weighed on this issue. He stated that “we know that Russia has a track record in this area,” to Sky News, in Reuters’ remarks. Raab said that it could damage the creation of a vaccine, whereas we all need to create a COVID-19 vaccine.