Russian Campaign Promotes Homegrown Vaccine and Undercuts Rivals

According to researchers and state department officials, Russian news outlets associated with the election campaign in the United States have put their sites on a new goal: assuring Spanish-speaking countries that the Russian coronavirus vaccine works better than its American competitors is.

The Russian campaign has focused on Latin American nations, including Mexico, which this week signed an agreement to receive millions of doses of the Russian vaccine and Argentina, which took place last month Began to vaccinate Its citizens along with it.

Powered on Spanish-language social media and reinforced by the official Twitter account of the Russian embassy in Mexico City, the campaign signaled a new wrinkle in the handling of Russian influence, promoting Russian industry and scientific catches on its rivals To vaccinate governments around the world. Their population.

The Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, was named after the first satellite to orbit the Earth, which was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. Sputnik V is considered Less expensive and easier to transport than vaccines made by American companies Pfizer and Modern. But some researchers say criticism in Russian outlets of Western vaccines is misleading.

“Almost everything they’re promoting about vaccines, manipulated and excluded without context,” said Brett Shaffer, a partner with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, an advocacy group that tracks Russian disinfection . “Every negative story or issue that has come up about the US-Med vaccine is amplified while they flood the area with any positive reports about the Russian vaccine.”

Researchers said media outlets posted on Facebook and Twitter by the Russian government provided links to hundreds of news stories suggesting possible relationships that may have a role in the death of American vaccines. Vaccines excluded follow-up reports that found vaccines played no role in causing the most deaths.

“It was a coordinated effort which was a PR campaign and part disinfection. It is one of the largest operations in Latin America to promote a narrative around the vaccine, and its impact is visible, “Jaime Longoria, a disinfection researcher in First Draft, is a nonprofit that journalists and independent Supports. Researchers. “Russia has consistently seeded and accepted a narrative to some extent.”

Researchers have tracked similar Russian efforts in Eastern European countries that are still negotiating with Russia to purchase the vaccine. Distortion researchers have monitored Russia spreading similar narratives in half a dozen languages, Target countries In Central and Western Africa.

China has also joined the fray, attacking a similar anti-vaccine tone aimed at domestic audiences, According to Disintegrating researchers. Although Russia and China do not appear to be working together, their shared interests have led to a shared narrative. Last month, a Twitter account dedicated to Sputnik V included a Chinese report claiming that the US media was silent on Pfizer’s vaccine-related deaths.

Intelligence officials in the United States first focused on targeting Spanish-speaking communities in Russia in August, when President Vladimir V. Putin announced that he had approved Sputnik V. Since then, Russia’s campaign has intensified, with two intelligence officials on condition of anonymity to The New York Times because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

State Department officials, in conjunction with Russia’s state-backed media outlets, reported Russia’s influence campaign exposed reports that were enthusiastic about Russian-made vaccines, warning of the dangers of US vaccines.

According to officials, the State Department aired a report last month outlining Russia’s efforts. A department spokesman said that Russia has tried to promote its own vaccine in the United States “seeking to sow antitrust” about Western vaccines. Analyzing more than 1,000 Russian-aligned Twitter accounts, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center found that Spanish-language accounts showed the greatest engagement. Russia’s campaign, the spokesman said, “undermines the collective global effort to end the global epidemic.”

The Impact Campaign in Mexico is best understood for the efforts made by the outlet with ties to the Kremlin. This was different from previous Russian disinfection campaigns, which bent on posting false and misleading information online. As social media companies have become more aggressive in rooting out devolution, Russian operations have focused on promoting selective news that defies the truth, rather than rejects it.

The new approaches were particularly effective because Spanish-language Twitter and Russia Today and Sputnik’s Facebook accounts, two state-controlled media outlets, routinely rank among the most influential in Latin America, First Draft researchers said. Russia Today and Sputnik did not respond to a request for comment.

“They have cultivated a large audience segment and regularly rank in the top 10 of the most shared stories or links,” Mr. Longoria said.

This week, Mexico’s Deputy Health Minister, Hugo López-Gatel, Said His government signed a contract for the Russian vaccine, purchasing 24 million doses, which would cover 12 million people. The vaccine will be distributed in several stages through May.

Medical Journal The Lancet on Tuesday Posted on Results from an independent review of Sputnik V showed that it had 91.6 percent efficacy and no serious side effects. The news was intended to boost Mexican government procurement efforts.

In December, Facebook said It kicked off a Russian disinfection campaign that posted information in French, English, Portuguese and Arabic about a range of topics, including Russia’s support of the vaccine.

“We are aware that impact operations come in various forms, including overt messages propagated through state-controlled media. We put a clear label on these publishers so that people know from whose side the information is coming, ”said Liz Bourgeois, a Facebook spokesperson.

She said Facebook had previously seen Russian campaigns mentioning Kovid-19, but had not found any current campaigns. Posts by Russian news outlets are not considered as clandestine and are not removed by Facebook.

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Answers to your vaccine questions

Currently more than 150 million people – about half the population – are eligible for vaccination. but Each state makes the final decision about who goes first. The country’s 21 million health care workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities were previously eligible. In mid-January, federal officials urged all states To open eligibility All adults 65 and older with medical conditions at high risk of becoming seriously ill or dying of Kovid-19. Adults in the general population are behind the line. If federal and state health officials can overcome bottlenecks in vaccine delivery, all 16 and older will become eligible by this spring or early summer. The vaccine has not been approved in children, although studies are ongoing. It may be months before the vaccine becomes available to anyone under 16 months of age. Go to your state health website For up-to-date information about vaccination policies in your area

You should not give anything out of pocket to get vaccinated, Although you will be asked for insurance information. Even if you do not have insurance, you should be given the vaccine at no charge. Congress passed legislation this spring to prohibit insurers from sharing any costs, such as co-pays or deductibles. It provides additional protection from billing patients to pharmacies, doctors and hospitals, including those. Still, health experts worry that patients may be weak Leave the bills surprising them. This can happen to people who are charged with a doctor visit with a vaccine, or Americans who have certain types of health coverage that are not covered under the new regulations. If you receive your vaccine from a doctor’s office or urgent care clinic, talk to them about a possible hidden fee. To ensure that you do not get a surprise bill, the best bet is to get your vaccine delivered to the health department’s vaccination site or local pharmacy after shots become more widely available.

It is to be determined. It is possible that the Kovid-19 vaccination will become an annual phenomenon like the flu pill. Or it may be that the benefits of the vaccine stay for more than a year. We will have to wait to see how durable the protection from vaccines is. To determine this, researchers are going to monitor vaccinated people to look for “cases of success” – people who get sick from Kovid-19 despite being vaccinated. This is a sign of weakening safety and will give researchers clues about how long the vaccine lasts. They will monitor the levels of antibodies and T cells in the blood of vaccinated people to determine if and when a booster shot may be required. It is predictable that people may need boosters every few months, once a year or only a few years. It is just a matter of waiting for the data.

Twitter declined to comment on any Russian operations targeting Spanish-speaking audiences, but said it was still investigating.

The researchers said the Russian campaign relied on news reports selected by Cherry. On 17 January, Russia Today Español tweeted that Norway was proceeding to investigate why 23 older people had died after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. Three weeks ago, the same account tweeted several reports about six people who died during Pfizer’s vaccine testing. The report did not include references to medical experts who said the deaths had no relation to the vaccine.

The accounts shared similar narratives on Facebook. On 5 January, Russia Today’s Spanish-language Facebook page shared a story with 17 million of its followers, claiming that a Portuguese nurse died two days after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. The story implied that the vaccine was responsible, Despite doctors and an autopsy ending Tika probably played no part in his death.

Russia’s diplomatic corps used its social media accounts to promote an image that the Russian vaccine was subject to unfair scrutiny.

The volume of posts was notable, with Mr. Longoria and others who study Russian influence operations. On CrowdTangle, Facebook-owned tools that analyze interactions on the site, they found that Russia Today and Sputnik pages targeted Spanish-speaking audiences, who had more than six million interactions with the word “Vukna” in the past year With over 1,000 posts generated, for the Spanish commentary.

The researchers said that Russia’s first efforts focused on other goals, such as Oxford-AstraZeneca Commentary. According to the researchers, an attempt to undermine confidence in that vaccine – including meems and posts on Facebook and Twitter, described it as dangerous and dangerous.

The campaign included suggestions that the vaccine would turn people into monkeys because it was developed using a chimpanzee virus. It largely targets countries that were debating the purchase of British or Russian vaccines, According to A previous report in the Times of London.

The drug makers announced that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had arrived to test the combination of their vaccines simultaneously.

“You can see a different tipping point, where all of a sudden the stories about AstraZeneca go from being completely negative to completely positive,” Mr. Longoria said. “It is very clear, and very clear, that when the business interests changed, what were the objectives of their impact operations.”

Oscar Lopez contributed reporting.

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