An Australian think-tank has published a short report on Chinese and Russian influence campaigns aimed at undermining Covid-19 vaccination programs. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute report begins:
As the world bets on vaccines as a way out of the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccine candidates have quickly become a vehicle for national influence. China, Russia and India, for example, are each quick to publicly celebrate, through traditional media and official social media accounts, every new country that signs up to use their vaccines. Stories are often promoted that emphasise the safety and affordability of countries’ vaccines. However, as vaccine-producing countries jostle for market share and political leverage for their products, some are prepared to resort to disruptive or deceptive tactics. The battle over vaccine narratives has led to online influence and disinformation campaigns that aim to mislead or to amplify potentially negative news about rival vaccine candidates without proper context. Such behaviour could erode public trust and vaccine uptake, delaying global efforts to eradicate the disease and recover from the severe social, political and economic damage caused by the pandemic. Russia reportedly went so far as to launch a covert disinformation campaign in 2020 designed to target and discredit the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine. And already this year, both Chinese and Russian state media and official social media accounts have amplified unfavourable reporting about the Pfizer vaccine.
Read the rest here.
The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported last month that pro-Kremlin media are trying to generate support for the Russian Sputnik V COVID vaccine by shifting its disinformation narratives. We also reported around the same time on a CNN analyst’s view of Russian efforts to spread COVID-related disinformation.