It has become commonplace for US and EU journalists to pin the blame on Russia for whatever happens in the Eastern or Western Hemispheres – from "stealing" the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Clinton to blowing up some old arms depot in a Czech village.
When French media outlet Numerama found out that a "mystery agency" named Fazze had reached out to French social media influencers asking them to throw shade on Pfizer's COVID vaccine based on an internal report by AstraZeneca, "Russia" was apparently the first thought that crossed the mind of Numerama's journalists.
Russians Did It Again, Never Mind the Facts
Numerama did not accuse Russia directly. However, it mentioned here and there that a LinkedIn search for Fazze found "only one employee, who claims to have done internships for Russian companies before"; that its site "offers the possibility of connecting with Facebook, Twitter and Vkontakte, the most used social network in Russia"; and that the agency "echoes most of the arguments that the official Sputnik V vaccine account shares on Twitter". Neither did the French media outlet note that VKontakte has long since gone global, nor did it specify which of Sputnik V's "arguments" it was referring to.
The new "Russia Did It" story spread like wildfire. What was left beyond the scope of the media "investigators" was Fazze's notion of a leaked AstraZeneca report and a scan of a chart showing vaccine fatalities from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson's jabs. Busy with their fishing expedition, virtually no one in the mainstream media appeared to be interested in where the chart came from.
AstraZeneca Calls for Clear and Consistent Information
However, it turns out that the fatality figures labelled "false" and "conspiratorial" really were part of AstraZeneca's report that was sent to health regulators in a number of countries.
The report, titled "Restoring Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccines and Improved Co-operation Between Regulatory, Healthcare Agencies and Pharmaceutical Companies – A Call for Action”, not only acknowledges that vaccines are indeed associated with some risk, but also presents two charts specifying side effects of leading Western jabs, with the first table showing that Pfizer’s drug has a worse mortality rate per million doses than AstraZeneca's in all countries listed, except in the UK
AstraZeneca's report specifically bemoans the bias against adenoviral vectored vaccines as well as attempts to restrict them after rare instances of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia emerged:
"Despite the substantial benefits associated with vaccination with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca/AZD1222, based on these findings, health agencies from some countries responded rapidly by restricting the use of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca/AZD1222 entirely or in certain age groups", the report says.
The Swedish-British firm confirmed the authenticity of the report to Sputnik, adding that the information "was not intended to be widely disseminated"; however, the limited access does little to explain why respected publications chose to ignore its existence.
The only feasible explanation appears to be that any Moscow-related conspiracy generates more clicks than publishing a report that calls for stopping demonisation and improving transparency when it comes to the only means to stop a global pandemic.