Russian fake news outlets spread a bizarre claim that the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine can turn people into monkeys.
Scary memes, videos, posters, and misleading news are being circulated about a new type of coronavirus vaccine being developed at Oxford University, claiming that it could turn people into monkeys.
Such actions could hit its sales in markets targeted by Russian drug manufacturers.
The targeted vaccine is a coronavirus vector vaccine being developed by Oxford University and the British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca has been working on ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, now known as AZD1222 with the Oxford Vaccine Group. Its work is based on the delivery of a portion of the coronavirus genome by a chimpanzee adenovirus.
According to the Times, memes have been created to target western countries and nations where Russia wants to sell its COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik-V, which is very controversial.
According to the newspaper, the disinformation campaign run by fake Russian news outlets was aimed at Brazil, India & Mexico, where Russia expects to sell its vector vaccine.
It works in a similar way to the Oxford vaccine but is based on the human adenovirus.
One poster featuring an image of a Chimpanzee wielding a syringe says: “Don’t worry, monkey vaccine is fine.”
Another one shows the edited image of Boris Johnson, in which he is photoshopped as a yeti walking into Downing Street, holding a folder named AstraZeneca with the caption: “I like my bigfoot vaccine.”
Viruses are used as a vector because they transmit genetic information to the cells, so that they can create a special material to protect themselves from the virus in the future. A chimpanzee adenovirus-based vector is commonly used in making vaccines but of course, it does not turn a human into a monkey.
The newspaper notes that it is unclear whether the propaganda attempt was coordinated directly from the Kremlin and who might be responsible for it. However, the jokes about monkeys and the vaccine have been seen on the Russia-1 channel.