China is stoking fears about the safety of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot to deflect from damning studies questioning the effectiveness of its own vaccine, according to a report.
State media has ramped up coverage of baseless safety fears, accusing Western media of ignoring the deaths of 23 recently inoculated seniors in Norway, even after officials ruled that the vaccine did not play a “contributory role,” the Associated Press said.
The focus on Pfizer’s vaccine came as a study in Brazil showed that China’s vaccine, Sinovac, was just 50 percent effective, despite claims it was almost 80 percent effective.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a government-supported think tank, reported seeing an increase in Chinese media disinformation about vaccines immediately after the study was released.
The director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, helped spread fears, insisting “there are safety concerns” with mRNA vaccines developed by both Pfizer and Moderna.
Yuan Zeng, an expert on Chinese media at the University of Leeds in Britain, said the government’s stories spread so widely that even well-educated Chinese friends have asked her whether they might be true.
The conspiracy theories likely only add to unease about vaccines — making the disinformation “super, super dangerous,” Yuan said.
Chinese officials have also pushed a wild, baseless conspiracy that the pandemic originated in a military lab at Maryland’s Fort Detrick, deflecting from the fact that scientists from the World Health Organization are currently in the initial epicenter, Wuhan, to investigate its true origins.
The social media hashtag “American’s Ft. Detrick,” started by the Communist Youth League, was viewed at least 1.4 billion times last week, the AP said.
“Its purpose is to shift the blame from mishandling by (the) Chinese government in the pandemic’s early days to conspiracy by the US,” Fang Shimin, a US-based writer known for exposing faked degrees and other fraud in Chinese science, told the wire service.
“The tactic is quite successful because of widespread anti-American sentiment in China.”