CoronaMyths: January 15-31

Ophelia Simonyan


In the second half of January, new anti-epidemic restrictions came into force. From now on, it is forbidden to visit food establishments, hotels, gyms and other public places without a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test result.

This decision, of course, caused a public outcry: the businessmen were dissatisfied, the anti-vax activists were also dissatisfied. During the last two weeks, both the anti-vax activists and the Ministry of Health made mistakes and spread false news while carrying out awareness-raising measures.

Is Moderna banned for those under 18?

Covering the protest action of “Free Will,” the correspondent of the Armenian 2nd TV channel (h2) mentioned that the Minister of Health voluntarily lowered the age limit for getting vaccinated with Moderna to 12 years old, while the producer allows it to be administered only to those over 18 years old.

This statement has been covered by media.am many times. Although the Moderna guide does state that the age of use starts at 18, on October 25, 2021, the company published the results of a new study that found the effectiveness of the vaccine in 6-11-year-olds. More than 4,700 children participated in the research. The vaccine triggered an immune response in almost all children, and antibodies were formed in all vaccinated children.

Are vaccinated people more likely to get infected?

On January 19, Samvel Grigoryan, a member of the Free Will movement and former head of the Republican Center for AIDS Prevention, told Pastinfo that those who received a booster dose of the vaccine were more likely to become infected. “Research shows that people with boosters have increased the infectivity of the virus the most. The infectivity of the unvaccinated has remained the same.”

This information was spread due to an error in the weekly report of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which was later corrected. Users and the media wrote that according to the report, 96% of those infected with omicron were vaccinated and 4% were unvaccinated (link 1, link 2, link 3). An RKI spokesman told Reuters that they had not released such statistics and had misrepresented the number of unvaccinated people in the report, which was soon corrected. Although this clarification was voiced on January 4, Samvel Grigoryan did not hesitate to voice the misinformation again about 3 weeks later.

It is also important that Omicron has a much higher rate of spread, it is contagious for both vaccinated and unvaccinated, and those who have been infected and recovered. To understand the effectiveness of vaccines, one must look at the mortality rate. According to our world in data, in some countries of the world (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, USA, Great Britain, Chile, etc.) the mortality rate of the unvaccinated is much higher than that of the vaccinated. Moreover, people who received boosters with the same data had a lower mortality rate than those who received two doses.

Is Sputnik Light contraindicated for pregnant women?

On January 27, the Free Will Initiative released a video featuring Samvel Grigoryan accusing the Ministry of Health of violating Sputnik Light’s guidelines. According to Grigoryan, the only contraindication mentioned by the ministry is the hypersensitivity reaction to the component, while pregnancy and breastfeeding are also contraindicated for being vaccinated with Sputnik Light.

It should be noted that the hypersensitive reaction in the order is really mentioned as the only absolute contraindication of Sputnik Light, but in the minister’s order, we also see the list of temporary contraindications – acute somatic and infectious diseases, exacerbation of chronic diseases, etc., which “Free Will” does not mention.

As for pregnancy and breastfeeding, they really are on the list of permanent contraindications to the vaccine. The formal reason is that the manufacturer did not test it on pregnant women.

The Ministry of Health told media.am that Sputnik Light is produced with the same technology of the first component of Sputnik V, and Sputnik V is allowed for use among pregnant women․

“The Sputnik Light vaccine production label states that the safety of the vaccine has not been studied in pregnant women, but it is manufactured using the same technology as the first component of the Sputnik-V vaccine, based on the 26th strain of adenovirus. In the case of Sputnik-V,  a review for pregnant women already exists, therefore there will also be a review of data for Sputnik-Light, taking into account the benefits of the vaccine for pregnant women and the risks to the fetus,” the ministry said.

The Ministry found it difficult to answer why pregnancy and breastfeeding are still considered contraindications in the Sputnik Light vaccine.

The Ministry of Health published incorrect information

On January 16, Ara Zohrabyan, the founder of the “Free Will” initiative, warned that the ministry was carrying out a false advertisement for the vaccine. In the short video, he accesses the official website of the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the sections of which states, “All available coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines 100% prevent severe and extremely severe forms of the disease and deaths, reduce hospitalization and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.”

This information really does not correspond to reality, vaccines are not 100% effective, Minister Anahit Avanesyan has issued statements about this topic many times. Those that have been vaccinated and who have passed away are a testament to that. However, it should be noted that the number of vaccinated and dead is much smaller in the world than the number of unvaccinated dead.

The phrase “100%” has already been removed from the NCDCP website, but the hard-to-read poster with the same phrase is still active.

Anti-vax doctors in the Armenian media

On January 18, Media.am reported on foreign doctors who often appear in the media and social networks, who are known in the international press as spreading false news about COVID-19, but are constantly presented in our field as specialists in the sphere. In this article, we have presented who the really famous doctors are and what false or misleading information they have spread about coronavirus and vaccines.

Anti-vax movement armed with the tools of civil society

On January 31, media.am published its study on the anti-vaccination movement. It describes how Armenian anti-vax activists set up their own non-governmental organizations (NGOs), media outlets, and “movements” to present their activities more legitimately. It is interesting that the fight against vaccinations in Armenia has turned into political activism over time. In large groups, there are present and former officials, public figures, and doctors, who are in one way or another interconnected.

Media.am also managed to find out that one of those groups, the “Army of Light,” uses closed WhatsApp groups to secure “likes” for the leader of the movement.

Ophelia Simonyan

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