Anti-Vax Doctors In The Armenian Media

Ophelia Simonyan

Journalist, fact-checker

Surveys conducted in the United States in 2021 showed that the majority of Americans consider their doctor to be the most reliable source of information about the coronavirus. The image is similar in many other countries in the world, the words of doctors seem credible and influential to people.

Taking advantage of this, a small group of doctors spread misinformation about the coronavirus. Media.am has covered misleading doctors-experts in Armenia several times (link 1, link 2, link 3).

Now we are covering the foreign doctors who often appear in the media and social networks, who are known to be spreading false rumors about COVID-19 in the international press but are constantly presented in our field as specialists.

Geert Vanden Bossche

Vanden Bossche’s words are most often spread by the Anti-Epidemic Alliance initiative and medmedia.am website (1, 2, 3, 4). Reputable media outlets and fact-checking journalists have long studied his activities.

Bossche is a Belgian veterinarian and vaccine researcher, he is actively involved in the anti-COVID-19 vaccine campaign and is the author of a number of conspiracy theories. Months ago he wrote an open letter to all the authorities of the world, in which he warned about the danger of vaccines. According to him, vaccines can cause new and more dangerous types of coronavirus, which will lead to a global catastrophe. The letter and the subsequent interview were published tens of thousands of times on Facebook and Instagram.

Bossche’s concerns were not relevant, the veterinarian’s words were checked by a number of fact-checking journalists and experts in the field and recognized as false news or speculations (1, 2, 3). It should be noted that the coronavirus strains were circulating before the start of mass vaccinations.

Geert Vanden Bossche also holds a medical degree in virology. According to his LinkedIn page, he was a senior specialist in the vaccine detection program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for 3 years. In fact, his scientific publications ceased in 1995, with the exception of a 2017 article published by OMICS Group Inc. in a magazine belonging to the publishing group and against which the US Federal Trade Commission had filed a lawsuit for fraud.

Robert Malone

The active supporters of Robert Malone in Armenia are the “Anti-Epidemic Alliance” and “Free Will” initiatives (1, 2, 3), the publications of which, in their turn, are actively spread medmedi.am (1, 2, 3, 4). We have covered the fake news that appeared on these platforms in a separate publication.

Robert Malone, 61, is a licensed physician in the United States. Malone considers himself the “creator of mRNA vaccines.” There are numerous articles and interviews in which he was presented as such. However, a number of professors and journalists in the field of science claim that the creation of mRNA vaccines is not the result of the work of one person, but of hundreds of researchers, while Malone, in fact, attributed the whole “package” of success to himself. By the way, after the Logically article, Malone denied that he was the creator of the mRNA vaccine and added that he was one of the creators of the “mRNA vaccine technology platforms.”

Last year, various authoritative fact-checking platforms covered the misinformation spread by him. For example, in August 2021, Malone announced that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could aggravate the disease because they had not been tested enough for mass use. He also repeated the claim that COVID vaccines affect women’s reproductive capacity.

In June 2021, he wrote on Twitter that studies had shown that two of the three lives saved by the vaccine died as a result of the vaccine. However, the journal that published the study soon called the main findings false and dismissed the study. From interview to interview, Malone gathered more than 200,000 followers on Twitter, but soon his account was blocked for spreading misinformation about COVID.

The PolitiFact fact-finding team debunked Malone’s claim that the proteins produced after the vaccine were toxic to the cells. The AAP factcheck team checked and disproved Malone’s statement that the same proteins often cause irreversible damage to children’s vital organs. The fact-finding journalists showed that Malone’s statement had no factual basis and the given examples were one of the very rare side effects of the vaccine.

Sucharit Bhakdi

The statements of Sucharit Bhakdi are again spread by the “Anti-Epidemic Alliance” in Armenia.

Sucharit Bhakdi is a retired microbiologist who worked at Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany. He put forward ideas that contradict the scientific consensus on the coronavirus epidemic. In his book, he claimed that medical masks do not protect against infection (this is wrong), he stated that COVID-19 is no different from other types of coronavirus and is not more dangerous  (this is wrong).  He also said that everyone has natural immunity against coronavirus, therefore, there is no need for vaccination (this is misleading).

The professor insists that the vaccines “will destroy the world’s population.” He spoke about it in a 40-minute video, which had more than 268,000 shares. This assertion has also been refuted by many fact-finding platforms (1 2 3 4). It’s enough to say that hundreds of thousands of people have participated in WHO-approved vaccine clinical trials and no deaths have been reported as a result of the vaccine. Bhakdi, on the other hand, could not show any causal link between the dead and the vaccines. The German Pathology Association (DGP) has described his well-known claims as unscientific.

Vladislav Shafalinov

Anti-vaxxers also like to quote Russian doctors. We often see the speeches of former military surgeon Vladislav Shafalinov in the pages of “Anti-Epidemic Alliance” and “Free Will.”

Dr. Shafalinov became famous after a series of scandalous statements, which were actively spread on social networks and in the press․ He opposes vaccines and considers the coronavirus to be a “global hoax” and a “globalist experiment.”

In the spring of 2021, he called on the Russian Supreme Court to remove the coronavirus from the “list of dangerous diseases for the environment.” A video was spread where Shafalinov claimed that vaccines cause infertility in men, which is one of the most common myths. Scientists believe that vaccines do not affect the reproductive health of men (and women).

Despite his skepticism about COVID-19, Shafalinov owns a Moscow-based medical service that offers paid hospitalization to patients with coronavirus. Coronavirus treatment in Russia is officially free. The minimum cost of Shafalinov’s service is 450,000 rubles (about $6,000).

Thus, in order to make their claims more credible, various anti-vaccine platforms in the Armenian media cite the words of doctors or professors who have ceased to have ties with medicine long ago and who engage in anti-vaccine propaganda. Their claims have been repeatedly denied by authoritative structures and fact-checkers.

Ophelia Simonyan

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