Russia had been spreading fake news by claiming that the COVID-19 vaccine of Oxford University turns people into monkeys. Posters, memes, and videos depicting the vaccine as dangerous have been found on the internet.
Russia and its memes
The British-made vaccine, which is set to be distributed by AstraZeneca, had been the target of Russia's dirty politics in the race to manufacture the first vaccine, according to Huffington Post.
Russia wants to sell its own Putin-backed Sputnik V vaccine, and the fake news was a ploy targeting countries like India and Brazil. One poster even featured an image of King Kong wielding a syringe with the caption "Don't worry, monkey vaccine is fine."
Another viral photo showed Boris Johnson walking into Downing Street, but he was edited to look like a yeti with the caption "I like my bigfoot vaccine."
The campaign, filled with disinformation, claimed that the vaccine created by Oxford could turn people into monkeys. Although ridiculous, there are many who fear that it will encourage conspiracy theorists and it will fuel the anti-vaccination movement.
Chief executive of AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot, told The Times that misinformation is a risk to public health. He urged everyone to use reliable sources of information and to trust regulatory agencies, and to remember the benefit of vaccines and medicines to humanity.
The harmful campaign was featured on Vesti News and has dubbed Oxford's work as the "Monkey Vaccine" because it uses a chimpanzee virus as a vector.
The chimpanzee is usually used as vectors because they can deliver genetic information to a cell in the human body.
A vector then transports the genetic material from coronavirus to the cells, giving them the information they need to create material to fight off future encounters with the virus.
Using a chimpanzee as a vector is common, and it has a high success rate. However, this does not turn people into monkeys, and it is impossible that it would.
Professor Andrew Pollard from the Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford said that the type of vaccine they have is similar to a number of other vaccines, all of which use the virus from humans or chimpanzees.
The Russian fake news outlets have spread across the world. A site in Brussels that gets 20,000 visitors per month is still displaying one of the harmful coronavirus memes, according to the Daily Mail.
Dr. Hilary Jones told "Good Morning Britain" that the attempts at disinformation were ridiculous and shameful. He said that Oxford has a reliable team and has a track record of producing effective and world-class vaccines like penicillin.
Russia has been accused of launching a cyberattack on the Oxford labs to try and obtain intellectual property from the west. British intelligence officials were also worried that the hackers would try and spread disinformation through the attacks.
In April, Russian news outlets reported that Boris Johnson was on a ventilator when he contracted COVID-19, which was false.
Meanwhile, Professor Pollard said that if the vaccine trials are completed at the end of 2020, it will be ready for use in early 2021.