French officials cast suspicious glance at Russia over Pfizer vax smear campaign

May 26, 2021

French authorities believe that the Kremlin could be behind efforts to spread disinformation about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine online.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, numerous high-profile health and science bloggers and YouTubers in France have received emails offering them money to raise questions about the safety of the Pfizer vaccine. The emails reportedly came from a marketing company called Fazze, which listed an address in London (where it is not actually registered) on its website before it took the site down this week. 

Written in broken English, the emails give the online influencers talking points such as: “Explain…the death rate among the vaccinated with Pfizer is almost three-times higher than the vaccinated by AstraZeneca;” and “Put a question like: ‘Why some governments actively purchasing Pfizer vaccine, which is dangerous to health of the people.’” 

One popular science YouTuber in France showed a screenshot of the emails he received and said the agent from Fazze refused to disclose his client, saying that they preferred to “remain incognito.”

Some media outlets in France have pointed out that there are similarities between language used by agents from Fazze and the Twitter account for Sputnik V, the viral vector vaccine approved in Russia last year, which includes posts saying that “real world data” has shown that viral vectors vaccines are safer than mRNA. Officials in the EU have also said that officials in Russia and China have attempted to sow fear about mRNA vaccines to make their homegrown viral vector shots appear more safe. 

Russia has aimed to become one of the world’s top distributors of a COVID-19 vaccine. According to Sputnik V’s Twitter page, the vaccine has been approved in 65 countries, and around 40 have signed purchasing deals for the shot. Rather than targeting large markets such as the U.S. and EU, The Russian Direct Investment Fund, the company that backed the Sputnik V shot, has been looking to poorer nations struggling to access high-profile vaccines made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and others.