Senate probe on anti-Sinovac campaign sought

Cecille Suerte Felipe, Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Senate probe on anti-Sinovac campaign sought
Senator Imee Marcos on January 30, 2024.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Imee Marcos is seeking an investiga- tion into the Pentagon’s alleged campaign to discredit the Chinese Sinovac vaccine at the height of the COVID pandemic.

Marcos on Tuesday filed a resolution authorizing the Senate foreign relations committee which she heads to look into the US military’s anti-vaccine campaign first exposed by Reuters.

“These anti-vax and misinformation campaigns gravely threaten national secu- rity issues and public health,” Marcos said. She cited government figures in the Reuters report that the Philippines had the “worst inoculation rates in Southeast Asia,” with only 2.1 million of 114 million Filipinos vaccinated in June 2021, short of the 70 million target.

There were over 1.3 million COVID infections at the time, with over 24,000 Fili- pinos dying of the virus, Reuters reported.

The poor inoculation rate coincided with the proliferation of “social media posts (that) sowed mistrust against

Sinovac and other COVID-19 vaccines,” Marcos said.

“The population’s mistrust of COVID vaccines in the early phases of the vac- cination rollout was evident by the low

inoculation rate,” she said. The Sinovac vaccine or CoronaVac, a jab manufactured by the Chinese phar- maceutical company Sinovac Biotech, was the widely accessible vaccine at the time.

“The difficulty in vaccinating the population contributed to the worst death rate in the region,” Marcos said. She said there is a need to probe the alleged Pentagon operation “to deter- mine the ramifications of the actions of the US military, any potential breach of international law by the United States and the possible legal recourse available to the Philippines, considering that such anti-vax and misinformation campaign threatens national security.” According to the Reuters report, Penta- gon operatives created fake troll accounts to smear the China-made vaccine at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

The operation involved using the hashtag #Chinaangvirus, in retaliation for Beijing’s own misinformation cam- paign that blamed the US for starting the pandemic.

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