Disinformation

Latest Disinformation Posts

No, Covid-19 vaccines don’t cause organ damage

No, Covid-19 vaccines don’t cause organ damage

A new viral video falsely claims that Covid-19 vaccines cause serious organ damage. In the fifteen-minute clip, a doctor says he’s found evidence that jabs can make the body’s immune system attack the heart, lungs and other organs. But the research does not stand up...

read more
No,  400,000 people haven’t died from Covid-19 vaccines

No,  400,000 people haven’t died from Covid-19 vaccines

Conspiracy theory websites and social media channels have leapt on a new piece of research that, they say, shows Covid-19 shots have killed more than 400,000 people in the U.S. Furthermore, they say adverse events reporting systems underestimate side effects by some...

read more
No, young athletes are not collapsing after vaccination

No, young athletes are not collapsing after vaccination

Videos of young athletes collapsing and even dying are spreading fast on social media. The falls, many users falsely suggest, are the result of sudden, serious heart problems brought on by Covid-19 jabs. Designed to scare, these claims are being used to undermine the...

read more
No, vaccines are not causing thousands of excess deaths 

No, vaccines are not causing thousands of excess deaths 

Over the course of the pandemic, most countries have seen more deaths than normal as Covid-19 has travelled through the population. In many cases, deaths have risen and fallen along with national outbreaks. But in recent months, some highly vaccinated countries have...

read more

Russia says its vaccine is the best against Omicron. Here’s what we actually know.

Katherine Hignett
Health Studio
United Kingdom

In late November, scientists announced they’d found a new coronavirus variant that could make vaccines less effective. Researchers quickly began probing the mutated virus to find out how much better it was at evading immunity than those that came before it.

Scientists from South Africa — some of the first in the world to study what would soon be dubbed Omicron — looked set to offer some of the first results.

“We’re flying at warp speed,” University of Witwatersrand virologist Penny Moore told the scientific journal Nature on 25th November. But “at this stage it’s too early to tell anything.”

Just four days later, however, the Russian officials seemed sure the country’s homegrown vaccines, Sputnik V and the one-dose Sputnik Light, were up to the task.

Russian Direct Investment Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev said in a statement: “The Gamaleya Institute believes that Sputnik V and Sputnik Light will neutralise Omicron as they have the highest efficacy against other mutations.”

In the “highly unlikely” event a modification was needed, the institute — which developed the vaccines in the first place — could mass produce one by late February, he added.

 

Bold claims

 

In reality, Dmitriev’s bold claim was unverifiable. It came before scientists would have been able to complete the relevant lab tests needed to show that the shots could “neutralise” the new variant.

Dr Moore’s work in South Africa, for example, was expected to take at least two weeks to yield results. It took until 8th December for Pfizer and BioNTech to announce three shots of their jab seemed able to neutralise the variant. And it took Moderna even longer — until 20th December — to announce a booster generated neutralising antibodies in the lab.

It’s important to note that these lab studies, which test blood samples from vaccine recipients, can’t actually predict how well the shots will perform in real-world populations. And at the time they were first reported, they also hadn’t been peer-reviewed.

It’s also not clear what evidence Dmitriev’s subsequent claim — that Sputnik V and Sputnik Light have the highest efficacy against other mutations — rests on. So far, evidence seems to show Sputnik V is both safe and effective. But with limited data on offer, it’s hard to know how effective it is compared to other jabs.

Scientists have previously voiced concerns over the quality of data initially released by Gamaleya Institute researchers. But more recent international evidence has bolstered the shot.

A recent comparative study from Hungary, for example, found that Sputnik V, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna all seemed to provide very high protection against Covid-19 infection. But Moderna, not Sputnik V, achieved the highest efficacy rate against infection (88.7% vs 85.7%) in this particular study.

People who received the Sputnik V jab did have a slightly lower rate of death from Covid-19 than those who received these other two vaccines. But, in Hungary, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were usually given to patients with pre-existing conditions who are sadly more likely to die from the disease.

 

Scientists say Sputnik V can neutralise Omicron, but recommend booster shots

 

Almost three weeks after Dmitriev’s initial statement, the Gamaleya Institute formally announced the results of laboratory tests similar to those performed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The Institute stated that the Sputnik V vaccine was able to generate Omicron-neutralising antibodies, with better results delivered after a booster shot.

Like other vaccine manufacturers, they recommend giving boosters to improve protection against the new variant.

Although these results have not yet been peer-reviewed, they tally more closely to those of other vaccines than Dmitriev’s bold initial statement.

 

Possible political motivations

 

It’s possible Dmitriev’s then-unevidenced claim was part of a wider effort to promote the Russian vaccine abroad. While the Russian population has been slow to take up the jab, it’s been used widely in a number of other countries.

But acceptance of the jab has been held back by ongoing concerns over the availability of raw data, and the fact it’s not yet been endorsed by the European Medical Agency or the World Health Organization.

The WHO previously halted its evaluation process over concerns about manufacturing standards for the shot. Without approval from the international health body, Sputnik can’t be used in the vaccine-sharing COVAX scheme, intended to get more jabs into lower income countries.

Meanwhile, pro-Russian websites, including the government-backed RT and Sputnik News,  have been using misleading information to criticise other vaccines and play up Sputnik V’s strengths for more than a year.

According to the anti-disinformation project EUvsDisinfo, which catalogues pro-Russian disinformation, at least two other misleading Sputnik V-related stories were posted to pro-Kremlin websites within a day of Dmitriev’s statement.

For now, disinformation about the vaccines continues to rage, while verifiable scientific evidence remains scarce.

Katherine Hignett -
Health Studio
United Kingdom

Read more

Read more