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Stigmatizing vaccines causes serious consequences – Sinovac

June 24 ------ STIGMATIZING vaccines can lead to extremely serious consequences like causing mistrust between science and public health, among others, China's leading vaccine supplier Sinovac told the Global Times in an exclusive response over the weekend after Reuters revealed that the Pentagon had conducted a secret anti-vaccine campaign to undermine China during the coronavirus pandemic. The clandestine operation had not been previously reported. It aimed to sow doubt about the safety and efficacy of vaccines and other life-saving aid that was being supplied by China, the Reuters investigation found. Through phony internet accounts meant to impersonate Filipinos, the military's propaganda efforts morphed into an anti-vaccine campaign. Social media posts decried the quality of face masks, test kits, and the first vaccine that would become available in the Philippines: China's Sinovac inoculation. 


Reuters identified at least 300 accounts on X, formerly Twitter, that matched descriptions shared by former US military officials familiar with the Philippine operation. Almost all were created in the summer of 2020 and centered on the slogan #Chinaangvirus — Tagalog for "China is the virus." Additionally, the US military's anti-vaccine effort expanded beyond Southeast Asia before it was terminated in mid-2021, including in Central Asia and the Middle East. 


Sinovac's spokesman Yuan Youwei told the Global Times that the company noticed the report and appreciated the fact that Reuters revealed the US military scheme to the public. Sinovac is a professional company with the goal of providing vaccines to eliminate diseases for humanity and to make a significant contribution to human health, said Yuan. "Although we have overcome the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is still not peaceful. Sinovac hopes to continue safeguarding human health and well-being through disease prevention and control. We believe that every industry should focus on doing their own part, which is the right attitude." "In history, there have also been people who have wrongly attacked vaccines, which have caused huge disasters. Stigmatizing vaccines can lead to a series of extremely serious consequences, such as lowering vaccination rates, disease outbreaks and epidemics, social panic and unrest, and crises of trust in science and public health," Sinovac told the Global Times. 


Public reports indicate that Sinovac's vaccines were among the first available for Filipino people during the Covid-19 pandemic. In February 2021, China donated the first 600,000 doses of Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccines to Manila. Former president Duterte Rodrigo personally led Cabinet members to greet this shipment, marking the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines received by the Philippines since the outbreak. Duterte said that this vaccine aid from China demonstrated the friendship and solidarity between the two countries. Citing three former US military officials, the Reuters report mentioned that the operation was pushed by then-Special Operations Command Pacific Gen. Jonathan Braga, who was reportedly a longtime advocate of increasing the use of propaganda operations in global competition. The operation aimed to encourage local populations to question the safety and efficacy of vaccines and other aid provided by China. "We didn't do a good job-sharing vaccines with partners," a senior US military officer directly involved in the campaign in Southeast Asia told Reuters. "So what was left to us was to throw shade on China's." The report also believes that China's growing influence fueled efforts by US military leaders to launch the secret propaganda operation. 


Some Filipino healthcare professionals and former officials contacted by Reuters were shocked by the US anti-vaccine effort, which they say exploited an already vulnerable citizenry. "Why did you do it when people were dying? We were desperate," said Dr. Nina Castillo-Carandang, a former adviser to the World Health Organization and Philippines government during the pandemic. "We don't have our own vaccine capacity," she added, and the US propaganda effort "contributed even more salt into the wound." To implement the anti-vaccine campaign, the US Defense Department overrode strong objections from top US diplomats in Southeast Asia at the time, Reuters found. Sources involved in its planning and execution say the Pentagon, which ran the program through the military's psychological operations center in Tampa, Florida, disregarded the collateral impact that such propaganda may have had on innocent Filipinos. "We weren't looking at this from a public health perspective," said a senior military officer involved in the program, per the Reuters report. "We were looking at how we could drag China through the mud." 




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