CHINA PUSHES CONSPIRACY THEORIES ON U.S. ORIGINS OF COVID VIRUS
Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials indicating it is safe. A government spokesperson has raised the unsubstantiated theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a US military lab, giving it more credence in China despite the fact that the pandemic started in Wuhan.
As the ruling Communist Party faces growing questioning about China’s vaccines and renewed criticism of its early COVID-19 response, it is hitting back by encouraging conspiracy theories that some experts say could cause harm, Huizhong Wu reported for the Associated Press (AP) late on January 25, 2021.
State media and officials are sowing doubts about Western vaccines and the origin of the coronavirus in an apparent bid to deflect the attacks. Both issues are on the spotlight because of the rollout of vaccines globally and the recent arrival of a World Health Organization (WHO) team in Wuhan, China, to investigate the origins of the virus.
Some of these conspiracy theories find a receptive audience at home. The social media hashtag “American’s Ft. Detrick,” started by the Communist Youth League, was viewed at least 1.4 billion times last week after a Foreign Ministry spokesperson called for a WHO investigation of the biological weapons lab in Maryland.
“Its purpose is to shift the blame from mishandling by (the) Chinese government in the pandemic’s early days to conspiracy by the US,” said Fang Shimin, a now-US-based writer known for exposing faked degrees and other fraud in Chinese science. “The tactic is quite successful because of widespread anti-American sentiment in China.”
Yuan Zeng, an expert on Chinese media at the University of Leeds in Great Britain, said the government’s stories spread so widely that even well-educated Chinese friends have asked her whether they might be true. Inflaming doubts and spreading conspiracy theories might add to public health risks as governments try to dispel unease about vaccines.
In the latest volley, state media called for an investigation into the deaths of 23 elderly people in Norway after they received the Pfizer vaccine.
An anchor at CGTN, the English-language station of state broadcaster CCTV, and the Global Times newspaper accused Western media of ignoring the news. a WHO panel has concluded that the vaccine did not play a “contributory role” in the Norway deaths.
The state media coverage followed a report by researchers in Brazil who found the effectiveness of a Chinese vaccine lower than previously announced. Researchers initially said Sinovac’s vaccine is 78% effective, but the scientists revised that to 50.4% after including mildly symptomatic cases.
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