PARIS (Reuters) – Several French social media sites say they have been approached by a communications agency which offered them money to spread negative publicity about the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, a ploy the health minister described as dangerous and irresponsible.
Leo Grasset, whose DirtyBiology Youtube channel has more than a million subscribers, said on his @dirtybiology Twitter account that he had been offered money to criticise the Pfizer shot.
“I have received a partnership proposal to bust the Pfizer vaccine in video. Huge budget, a client who wants to remain anonymous …. if you see videos about this, you will know that it is a set-up,” he tweeted.
He added that the address of London-based agency which had contacted him was a fake.
It was not clear how many people had received such requests, where they originated or why they targeted the Pfizer vaccine, the most commonly administered in France, a country which has a tradition of vaccine scepticism.
Pfizer did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Pfizer and German partner BioNTech last November became the first drug manufacturers to report successful initial data from a large coronavirus vaccine clinical trial.
In April, a European Union report said that Russian and Chinese media were systematically seeking to sow mistrust in Western COVID-19 vaccines in their disinformation campaigns aimed at the West.
One of the operators of “Et ca se dit medecin” (“And that calls itself a doctor”), which has about 30,000 followers on Twitter and 90,000 on Instagram, also said on RMC TV he had been offered money to discredit the Pfizer vaccine.
“I do not know where this comes from, from France or abroad,” French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on BFM TV on Tuesday. “It is pathetic, it is dangerous, it is irresponsible and it does not work.”
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Additional reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Nick Macfie)