Mystery ‘Smear Campaign’ Against Pfizer Vaccine Hits France | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

Attempts to “woo” social media influencers with payments to bad-mouth the Pfizer covid vaccine are investigated in France; Russia is suspected. Meanwhile the EU takes AstraZeneca to court over delayed deliveries and hackers release private patient data in New Zealand.

Social Media Heavyweights Wooed For Pfizer Smear Campaign

Social media influencers in France with hundreds of thousands of followers say a mysterious advertising agency offered to pay them if they agreed to smear Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine with negative fake stories. French YouTuber Léo Grasset was among those contacted. He said Tuesday that he was offered a potentially lucrative but also hush-hush deal to make bogus claims that Pfizer’s vaccine poses a deadly risk and that regulators and mainstream media are covering up the supposed dangers. (Leicester, 5/25)

The Hill:
France Probing Whether Russia Involved In Campaign Against Pfizer Vaccine

A France security official said Tuesday that authorities were looking into whether Russia was involved in efforts to gather social media influencers for an online campaign aiming to sow doubt in the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. The official told The Wall Street Journal that it suspected the Kremlin could be behind a series of emails that several French bloggers said they had received in recent days from a person who claimed to work for the marketing firm, Fazze. (Castronuovo, 5/25)

EU Takes On AstraZeneca In Court Over Vaccine Deliveries

The European Union took on vaccine producer AstraZeneca in a Brussels court on Wednesday with the urgent demand that the company needs to make an immediate delivery of COVID-19 shots the bloc insists were already due. AstraZeneca’s contract signed with the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, on behalf of member states foresaw an initial 300 million doses for distribution among all 27 countries, with an option for a further 100 million. The doses were expected to be delivered throughout 2021. But only 30 million were sent during the first quarter. (Petrequin, 5/26)

UK Failed ‘Disastrously’ In COVID-19 Crisis, PM Johnson’s Ex-Chief Adviser Says

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser said the government failed in the COVID-19 crisis and fell “disastrously short” of the standards the public had a right to expect during the most devastating global pandemic in decades. With almost 128,000 deaths, the United Kingdom has the world’s fifth worst official COVID-19 toll, and Johnson was slow to appreciate the significance of the threat from the virus in early 2020 as it spread from China towards Britain’s shores. (Faulconbridge, 5/26)

New Zealand Health Systems Hackers Release Patient Details To The Media

Hackers who targeted hospitals in New Zealand’s Waikato district have released what appears to be private patient information to media outlets, as health systems struggled to come back online more than a week after the attack. A group claiming responsibility for the Waikato District Health Board cyberattack that took place last week released scores of official looking records and documents containing names, phone numbers, and addresses of patients and staff, Radio New Zealand and other local media reported. (5/26)

Major Japan Newspaper Asahi Calls For Olympic Cancellation

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper on Wednesday called for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled with the games set to open in less than two months. It is the first of Japan’s major newspapers to make the move and joins some regional newspapers that have recently added to the growing opposition to holding the Olympics. Coming out against the Olympics could be significant since the newspaper, like many in Japan, is a sponsor of the postponed Olympics that are to open on July 23. Asahi is typically liberal-leaning and often opposes the ruling party led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. (Wade and Komiya, 5/26)

EXPLAINER: How Vaccine Passports For Global Travel Will Work

Boarding pass, suitcase, passport and … digital vaccination certificate? Keen to avoid losing another summer of holiday revenue to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union, some Asian governments and the airline industry are scrambling to develop so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports to help kickstart international travel. They’re working on systems that would allow travelers to use mobile phone apps to prove they’ve been vaccinated, which could help them avoid onerous quarantine requirements at their destinations. (Chan, 5/26)

Scientists: Canceling Tokyo Olympics “May Be The Safest Option” 

With less than two months until the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, scientists are warning that “canceling the games may be the safest option,” according to a paper published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. As Japan anticipates 20,000 athletes and support staff from 200 different countries, the country remains in a state of emergency with nearly 70,000 active cases and only 5% of the population vaccinated, the lowest rate within OECD countries. (Fernandez, 5/26)

Covid: Malaysia Now Has More Cases Per Million People Than India

Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 cases are climbing rapidly and have surpassed India’s on one critical measure, according to statistics site Our World in Data. India has been experiencing a devastating second wave since April and has the world’s second largest Covid caseload. The country’s daily case count, while trending downward, has remained elevated at hundreds of thousands of infections — far exceeding Malaysia’s few thousands a day. But Malaysia’s daily Covid infections per million people — on a seven-day rolling basis — have exceeded that of India since Sunday, data compiled by Our World in Data showed. (Lee, 5/26)

India Covid Crisis: People Use Social Media To Find Hospitals, Medicine

As India’s devastating second wave of coronavirus outbreak overwhelmed the health-care system, desperate users turned to social media to seek help from the public as hospital beds and oxygen supplies ran out. People in need of assistance, either for themselves or their relatives, posted requests on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. Others collated information on the availability of beds in hospitals as well as contact details of vendors with oxygen cylinders and other resources in short supply. In many instances, the efforts helped save lives. (Choudhury, 5/24)

Dozens Of Countries Facing Oxygen Shortages Due To COVID Surges 

Dozens of countries are facing oxygen shortages so acute that they threaten to result in the “total collapse” of their health systems, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported Monday. Many of these countries already faced oxygen shortages before the pandemic. Increased demand from COVID-19, coupled with low vaccination rates, could leading to devastating results, per the Bureau. (Saric, 5/25)

The Washington Post:
Taiwan’s Tsai Accuses Beijing Of Blocking BioNTech Vaccine Deal

Taipei’s war of words with Beijing around the pandemic took a sharp turn on Wednesday when Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen accused China of preventing German biotechnology company BioNTech from supplying the self-governing island with coronavirus vaccines. It was the first time that Taiwan had directly specified China’s alleged involvement in blocking such an agreement. “We were close to completing the contract with the original German plant, but because of China’s intervention, up to now there’s been no way to complete it,” Tsai told members of her Democratic Progressive Party, according to Reuters. (Ang, 5/26)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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