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Report: US conducted covert anti-vaccine campaign to sabotage China’s COVID-19 efforts



During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States military launched a secretive campaign aimed at countering China’s growing influence in the Philippines, a nation hit hard by the deadly virus. This covert operation involved the creation of fake internet accounts impersonating Filipinos to push an anti-vaccination narrative. The campaign targeted China’s Sinovac inoculation, questioning its safety and efficacy, and sowing doubt about vaccines and aid supplied by China.

The clandestine operation, which has not been previously reported, utilized at least 300 fake accounts on social media platforms like X, formerly Twitter, to spread propaganda with the slogan #Chinaangvirus – Tagalog for “China is the virus.” These accounts were created in 2020 and posted messages such as “COVID came from China and the VACCINE also came from China, don’t trust China!” The social media company removed the profiles after their coordinated bot campaign was exposed by Reuters.

The US military’s anti-vaccination efforts extended beyond Southeast Asia and aimed to sow fear of China’s vaccines among Muslims in Central Asia and the Middle East. The Pentagon sought to spread misinformation about China’s vaccines containing pork gelatin, which could be considered forbidden under Islamic law. The programme began under former President Donald Trump and continued into Joe Biden’s presidency until it was terminated in mid-2021.

While the Biden administration issued an edict banning the anti-vaccination campaign, the Pentagon continued to engage in secret propaganda disparaging China’s vaccines in the developing world. A senior Department of Defense official acknowledged the campaign but declined to provide details. The US military spokesperson defended their use of social media platforms to counter malign influence attacks, alleging that China initiated a disinformation campaign blaming the United States for the spread of COVID-19.

The Pentagon’s covert operation has faced criticism from public health experts who condemned the programme for potentially jeopardizing public trust in government health initiatives. The effort to undermine Chinese vaccines could undermine overall public trust in vaccines, including those produced by the US. Despite the differences in vaccine efficacy, all vaccines were approved by the World Health Organization. Sinovac did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

The revelation of the US military’s secret propaganda campaign has led to calls for investigation by the appropriate authorities of the involved countries. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the US government of manipulating social media and spreading misinformation. The Philippines Department of Health echoed the call for investigation, while American health experts expressed dismay and disappointment at the Pentagon’s actions. Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist, criticized the programme as indefensible and called it a breach of trust. Former intelligence officials also noted that the Pentagon’s actions crossed a line and undermined public health efforts.

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