PARIS, FRANCE – French media and social media were abuzz on Tuesday with speculation about a mysterious offer to influencers and YouTube figures asking them to publicly denigrate the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in exchange for money.
Those targeted by the campaign, active in health and science, said they had received an email from an apparently UK-based communications agency offering them “a partnership” on behalf of a client with “a colossal budget” but who wanted it. to remain anonymous and also to keep any transaction secret.
“Strange. I received a partnership proposal that consists of slamming the Pfizer vaccine into a video,” tweeted Leo Grasset, whose popular science channel has nearly 1.2 million subscribers on YouTube.
“Colossal budget, the client wants to remain incognito, and I should hide the sponsorship.”
He added: “Unbelievable. The address of the London agency that contacted me is wrong. They’ve never been around, it’s a laser surgery center. All staff have LinkedIn profiles. weird. “
The profiles he found were now gone, but not before he noticed that “everyone there worked in Russia.”
Sami Ouladitto, a comedian with nearly 400,000 followers, reported a similar approach, as did Et Ca Se Dit Medecin (And They Call Themselves Doctors), a hospital intern with 84,000 Instagram followers.
“It’s pathetic, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible and it’s not going to work,” French Minister of Health Olivier Veran told BFMTV on Tuesday.
The French are overwhelmingly in favor of vaccination and “I don’t think any attempt to divert them from vaccines will work,” he said, adding that he had “no idea” if the supposed offer could come from from Russia.
LINK OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS?
The authors of the emails, claiming to be a London-based agency called Fazze, are difficult to trace, French media reported.
Le Monde newspaper said Fazze had never been registered in the UK, but could have a legal presence in the Virgin Islands.
But according to the now deleted Fazze CEO’s LinkedIn profile, the agency operates out of Moscow, Le Monde said.
According to tweets from people claiming to be aware of the case, the agency offered 2,000 euros (US $ 2,450) to influencers in exchange for them claiming in particular that the Pfizer-BioNTech coup caused more deaths than any other vaccine.
The vaccine, commonly referred to in France only as Pfizer, gained popularity after a rival British-Swedish vaccine from AstraZeneca fell out of favor across much of the European Union due to health concerns and delivery delays .
The EU executive is suing AstraZeneca for forcing it to deliver 90 million additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccine by July.
The lawsuit puts additional pressure on the company after a link was made between its vaccine and very rare but often fatal blood clots associated with low platelet counts.
The EU has also cleared the use of two other vaccines, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
But Russia’s Sputnik vaccine – along with China’s Sinopharm – is still not cleared for use in the block.
After a slow start, the rollout of coronavirus vaccination in France has accelerated in recent weeks, with some 23 million people – a third of the population – having received at least one dose to date.