Expert Says US Military’s Campaign Against Chinese Covid Vaccine Was Driven by Commercial Competition

A Reuters report revealed that the US military disseminated misinformation about Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines in Asia during the peak of the pandemic.

Marcello Ferrada de Noli, a Swedish emeritus professor of epidemiology and former research fellow at Harvard Medical School, told RT that the alleged Pentagon-orchestrated social media campaign targeting China’s Covid-19 vaccine was likely an attempt to suppress competition.

Reuters, citing former US military officials, reported earlier this week that the US military had conducted a clandestine disinformation campaign to discredit China’s Sinovac vaccine in 2020-2021. The campaign reportedly focused on the Philippines, utilizing fake social media accounts posing as locals to criticize the Chinese vaccine, as well as test kits and face masks manufactured by the country. It subsequently reportedly spread to other parts of Asia and the Middle East.

According to de Noli, while anti-vaccine campaigns are often characterized as aiming to prevent people from receiving vaccinations entirely, in the case of Chinese and Russian vaccines, it was a matter of rivalry.

“Instead, the purpose I believe is… to discourage specific vaccine brands produced in Russia and China in order to sell to those countries vaccines produced by American companies or produced by their associates in Europe,” he stated, highlighting that both the US and EU have “direct contact with big pharma.”

De Noli observed that the campaign reported by Reuters is far from the only instance of the US seeking to undermine vaccines manufactured in China or Russia. For example, he recalled a widely publicized 2021 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services that indicated American health officials under then-President Donald Trump had worked to dissuade Brazil from purchasing the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.

According to de Noli, such instances of unfair competition are “very serious from the point of view of epidemiology and infection control,” particularly considering that Sputnik V was the “first vaccine that was available in the world and clearly effective.”

According to Reuters, the campaign targeting Sinovac commenced under the Trump administration and continued for months into Joe Biden’s presidency, only ceasing in the spring of 2021. Spokespersons representing Trump and Biden declined to provide comments on the matter. An unnamed senior Pentagon official reportedly acknowledged the campaign but refrained from offering further details.

A Pentagon spokeswoman did not confirm the campaign’s existence but asserted that the US military “uses a variety of platforms, including social media, to counter those malign influence attacks aimed at the US, allies, and partners.” She also alleged that China had launched a “disinformation campaign to falsely blame the United States for the spread of COVID-19.”

The Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry stated in an email to Reuters that it was not surprised by the report, as it has long maintained that Washington disseminates misinformation about China.