A US official quoted in an American newspaper slammed Russian media outlets for spreading 'misinformation' about American and European vaccines.
Despite several vaccination programs already underway around the world, some vaccines being used have come under scrutiny after experts questioned their efficiency and possible side effects.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, which quoted an American official, Russian intelligence services have carried out an online campaign to undermine Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine, along with other variants produced by Western nations.
The source, who was not named in the report, told the WSJ that Russia-linked websites had used online publications in recent months to raise doubts and confusion over American and European vaccines.
An official from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which looks into foreign disinformation efforts, found that four websites linked to Russian intelligence were spreading false information about some inoculations.
These websites mainly focused on the possible risk of side effects and also questioned their efficacy.
Furthermore, the official said Russia-backed websites have also falsely claimed the US rushed the Pfizer vaccine through the approval process.
Although the readership of these outlets is small, the US official sees the danger of the narratives being ripe for amplification by other Russian media outlets.
“We can say these outlets are directly linked to Russian intelligence services,” the official from the Global Engagement Center said.
“They’re all foreign-owned, based outside of the United States. They vary a lot in their reach, their tone, their audience, but they’re all part of the Russian propaganda and disinformation ecosystem.”
According to the report by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a US think tank group, Russian media has produced the most negative coverage about Western vaccines: 86 percent of surveyed Russian tweets mentioned Pfizer with a negative slant, while 76 percent had Moderna associated with negative connotations.
“The emphasis on denigrating Pfizer is likely due in part to its status as the first vaccine besides Sputnik V to see mass use, resulting in a greater potential threat to Sputnik’s market dominance,” the report read.
Moreover, the report showed that there were several retweeted Russian tweets which mentioned Pfizer during the studied period. “All of which highlighted adverse reactions to the vaccine or allegations of double standards in media coverage.”
When it comes to the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, there appears to be no negative coverage found by Russian-affiliated accounts. This sits in great contrast to the 8 and 14 percent for Sinovac and Sinopharm, respectively.
The Pfizer vaccine was mentioned in 107 Russian-affiliated tweets containing the text “die,” “death,” or “dead.”
However, just “one reference in a Russian state media tweet of the death of a recipient of the Sputnik V vaccine referred to the claim as a lie.”