US officials believe Russia launched a disinformation campaign against the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to boost the status of its own: Report

Yelena Dzhanova
·3 min read
Pfizer
Oil markets surged in the hours after Pfizer announced positive results from its coronavirus vaccine study. Dado Ruvic/Reuters
  • Russian intelligence is sowing disinformation about the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, the WSJ reported.

  • Four foreign-owned outlets are disseminating info that questions the Pfizer vaccine's efficacy and safety.

  • US intelligence believes this effort to undermine Pfizer is a way to bolster Russia's vaccine.

  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Russian intelligence officials are attempting to cast doubt on the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

Four publications acting as fronts for Russian intelligence are disseminating information that questions the efficacy and safety of the Pfizer vaccine, State Department officials told the Journal.

Russia is peddling misleading information designed to make Americans question whether the US rushed the approval process for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

"We can say these outlets are directly linked to Russian intelligence services," an official at the State Department's Global Engagement Center told the newspaper. "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."

Back in November, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country is hoping to distribute its controversial Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to other countries.

Russia announced a successful coronavirus vaccine in August, but Sputnik V was approved under questionable circumstances. It was released before it went through phase 3 trials. In the United States, phase 3 is a requirement before a drug or vaccine can be vetted and approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The rushed timeline led health officials to speculate whether the Kremlin coerced vaccine makers into putting out Sputnik V quickly to gain a leg up in the global race for a cure to the novel coronavirus.

US intelligence officials now believe this effort to undermine the Pfizer vaccine coming out of the Kremlin is another way to bolster the status of Sputnik V, the Journal reported.

Johnson & Johnson is the latest company to enter the vaccine game. The healthcare giant is offering a single-dose vaccine that the company expects to distribute to 4 million Americans shortly.

Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine gained FDA approval toward the end of February, said it expects to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of March and 100 million by the end of June.

Including Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, the United States is now distributing and touting three effective vaccines to Americans.

Pfizer and Moderna - the two companies whose coronavirus vaccines preceded Johnson & Johnson's - have efficacy rates of 94% and 95%, respectively.

Vaccines against the coronavirus have been rolling out in the United States since December 2020, after Pfizer became the first company to produce and receive FDA approval to distribute.

With this third vaccine on the market, the US is expected to have enough doses to immunize 300 million people.

More than 57 million people in the United States have already received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, while Johnson & Johnson's requires one.

Last week, President Joe Biden said the US plans to have enough doses of coronavirus vaccines for "every adult in America" by the end of May. Biden's announcement sped up the timeline to reach this threshold by about a month, Insider's Eliza Relman and Sonam Sheth reported.

It's been almost a year since the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Since then, more than 28 million people in the United States have contracted the virus, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Of that, more than 500,000 Americans have died.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

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