This week in “Corona Scams”, we’re heading back to Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin is boasting of Russia’s “new COVID-19 vaccine”. Is he telling the truth?
Also, what the hell is Alec Baldwin doing now? And what on earth do Jake Paul and the Hype House have to do with any of this?
Is this “major information warfare”? And if so, who started the war?
On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin wasted no time in announcing that Russia has approved a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Health officials in other countries have decried the Russian government’s rush to rubber-stamp unproven medicine, but Kremlin officials have fired back and denounced what they call “major information warfare” waged by American enemies.
So where’s the truth here? During yesterday’s press call, the Nevada Health Response team didn’t directly address the reports on Russia’s alleged new vaccine. However, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage noted, “We did not expect to have a vaccine at this point. We see that this continues to be the case.”
Deputy Administrator of Community Health Services Julia Peek went on to reiterate that the state has been preparing to begin rollout of a vaccine whenever one is approved here in the U.S., and that Las Vegas is one of the locations where Moderna is conducting Phase III of its own vaccine trial. So far, both here in Nevada and in the other states, health officials are not expecting a vaccine to be ready until the end of this year at the earliest.
So who’s telling the truth about Russia’s vaccine announcement?
Let’s go to the actual approval letter for the answer. This week, Science Magazine reported that the actual certificate given to the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology merely authorizes this vaccine “to be given to ‘a small number of citizens from vulnerable groups,’ including medical staff and the elderly.” It also forbids the Gamaleya Institute from administering the vaccine to the wider general population until January 1, 2021.
Wait, what? As Science News explains, vaccines typically go through three stages of clinical trials: “The first two phases test the vaccine in small numbers of people for safety and may collect data on whether people make antibodies or have other responses to the vaccine. The third phase tests the vaccine in thousands of people to determine whether it lowers the infection rate.”
The Gamaleya vaccine, which the Russian government has since dubbed “Sputnik V”, has not undergone the critical third phase of broader testing and analysis of data to determine whether it actually prevents new infections. In fact, as Dr. David Gorski notes in Respectful Insolence, Gamaleya has only registered two Phase I clinical trials. Phase I trials are not even meant to determine efficacy, and it’s unclear whether this vaccine has even made it past Phase II, let alone Phase III.
And then, there’s one more twist: As Gorski also points out, the Gamaleya vaccine takes an adenovirus research based approach, or “gene therapy as a vaccine”, that’s typically not used to develop vaccines. While other potential COVID-19 vaccine developers, including those who’ve been targeted by Russian hackers (ahem), have been doing adenoviral research, adenovirus vaccines don’t have a great track record of working on humans. Though it’s possible that an adenovirus vaccine will work on COVID-19, the Russian government is acting recklessly by declaring “victory over the virus” with an unproven vaccine.
Wait, who did Alec Baldwin do an Instagram Live with? (And why??!!)
— Dr. Sajjad Fazel (@SajjadFazel) August 6, 2020
Now that we got through all that, let’s jump into more important news: Madonna just celebrated her son Rocco’s 20th birthday earlier this week, and her own birthday arrives on Sunday. The Madame X chanteuse is also leaving Interscope Records and eyeing a return to the silver screen. And so far, she’s managed to avoid returning to “Dr. Demon Sperm” Q-Anon-sense territory on her social media pages for nearly two weeks!
We can’t say the same about Alec Baldwin. It’s one thing to tell fans to “get back to the movies” by frequenting drive-in theaters. It’s another to host an hour-long Instagram Live stream with notorious anti-vaccine demagogue Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. And yes, RFK Jr. is so notoriously anti-vax that three of his own family members publicly denounced and debunked him last year for continuing to campaign against vaccines following America’s worst measles outbreak since the measles vaccine debuted in 1963.
Getting back to Alec Baldwin’s live stream with RFK Jr., Kennedy declared that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” because they’re “not tested” and they contain “mercury”, and Baldwin agreed with him. Kennedy’s first claim is completely false, as vaccines are typically rigorously tested for safety (except possibly in Russia – see above). As to Kennedy’s second accusation, there’s a grain of truth with thimerosal, a preservative that had been frequently used in vaccines, resulting in ethylmercury once the body metabolizes it. However ethylmercury is not the same as methylmercury, as in the “mercury” that can be lethally toxic. Also, thimerosal has not even been a common ingredient in vaccines since 2001.
Lesson learned: Just because your favorite “influencers” say something on your favorite social media platform, that does not make it sound medical advice.
Throughout the summer, California authorities have been playing “whack-a-mole” against “influencers” like Jake Paul and Tana Mongeau who’ve regularly been hosting and/or promoting “corona parties” that openly flout California’s restrictions on large indoor gatherings. Dare I say, the Hype House got a whole new meaning when they hosted a massive birthday party full of people and devoid of masks and social distancing, and Tana Mongeau’s on-camera message to the world was, “We don’t f–king care.”
Some of the guilty “influencers”, such as James Charles and Larray, publicly apologized after YouTube star Tyler Oakley called them all out and urged fans to not to follow their lead. Others, such as Jake Paul and Hype House member Thomas Petrou, are refusing to stop the “entertainment”, even after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) threatened to cut off water and power to repeat offenders in LA city limits following another “corona party” ending in gunshots and a dead person.
So much immune boost bunk out there. Ignore it all! #HealhtyLifestyle
— Timothy Caulfield (@CaulfieldTim) August 7, 2020
As we’ve been documenting in our “Corona Scams” series for nearly five months, people have been far too willing to spread dangerous propaganda, and they’ve been far too quick to justify it by pointing to something President Donald Trump tweeted, or something Madonna shared on Instagram, or even something a MLM salesperson (such as “KM”) said on Facebook regarding “coronavirus cures”.
Just this week, the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene published a report that estimates that 5,800 people have been hospitalized and 800 have died after trying fraudulent “coronavirus cures”. The propaganda has piled up so high that the World Health Organization now warns that we’re living in an “Infodemic”. This means that we must be more vigilant than ever in stopping the spread of both COVID-19 and the viral propaganda that’s also throwing people into harm’s way.
If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health District, Washoe County Health District, Carson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square.
Cover photo provided by the Kremlin, licensed under Creative Commons, and made available by Wikimedia.