Bizarre pictures and memes shown on Russian TV claiming the British coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca will turn people into apes, with one poster depicting Boris Johnson as ‘bigfoot’, have been condemned.
Britain has slammed a smear campaign in Russia that claims a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University scientists will turn people into ‘monkeys’.
The bizarre pictures suggesting any vaccine created in the UK would be dangerous and claiming the virus uses a chimpanzee virus as a vector have been condemned.
Some shown on Russian TV programme Vesti Newsa included a picture of Boris Johnson portrayed as ‘bigfoot’ holding a a folder headed ‘AstraZeneca’, the company that is manufacturing the vaccine.
Other images show America’s famous Uncle Sam poster with the caption ‘I want you to take the monkey vaccine.’
Another poster featured an image of King Kong wielding a vaccine, along with the caption ‘Don’t worry! Monkey vaccine is fine!’
The pictures and memes, uncovered by The Times, are understood to be a ploy targeting countries such as Brazil and India where Russia wants to sell its own Putin-backed Sputnik V vaccine.
Reacting to the campaign, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described it as “utterly deplorable.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We take it very seriously. Frankly it’s a shabby piece of disinformation.
But it’s very serious, because It’s an attempt to disrupt the attempts to find a safe vaccine.
“There’s no doubt about it – the UK is world famous for the quality of our science and research. We’re the international benchmark.
“And we know Russia has a track record of using disinformation as a foreign policy tool. We’ve talked about it previously.
“But actually any attempt to spread lies about Covid-19 and the vaccine, particularly when we’re trying to come together as an international community to resolve a global pandemic, is utterly deplorable.”
Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of Astrazeneca, warned the disinformation campaign will encourage anti-vaccination movements.