Germany's vaccine rollout continues, despite misinformation spreading to the contrary
- Category: SARS-Coronavirus Case Epidemic
- Created: Friday, 03 September 2021 19:25
- Written by RMIT ABC News Factcheck
ABC Fact Check presents the latest debunked misinformation on COVID-19. (RMIT ABC Fact Check)
CoronaCheck is RMIT ABC Fact Check's weekly email newsletter dedicated to fighting the misinformation infodemic surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.
CoronaCheck #81 In this week's newsletter, we investigate suggestions that Germany has paused its vaccine rollout, a claim which originated from a series of pandemic simulation videos made by COVID-19 misinformation peddlers. We also debunk a slew of claims about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and bring you a fact check on Clive Palmer's claim that WA's vaccine requirements for people travelling to the state from NSW breaches section 117 of the constitution. No, Germany has not paused its vaccine rollout Germany's vaccine rollout has continued, with 59 per cent of its population vaccinated. (Reuters: Hannibal Hanschke).
A fictitious video reporting a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccinations in Germany has been mistaken by some people online as genuine, fuelling anti-vaccination rhetoric and the spread of misinformation. The video, produced by the German anti-lockdown political party dieBasis, is part of a fake broadcast series titled "Base camp — A Global Pandemic Exit Exercise".
In the series, members of a so-called "Corona Investigation Committee" present a hypothetical scenario in which the German government has resigned and an interim government has taken over the national response to COVID-19. In one video, a former government employee, Stephan Kohn, claims he has replaced the president of Germany's national health body. "The new federal minister of health, Dr Wolfgang Wodarg, has appointed me as interim president of the Robert Koch Institute," Kohn says. "My task is to consult the government and implement new decisions in the institute and inform you, the public." The video continues with Mr Kohn saying the interim government has introduced a fortnight long moratorium on vaccinations after receiving "reports on side effects of the [COVID-19] vaccinations". He downplays the severity of COVID-19, saying the "hazard situation" of the virus has been revised to "very low". Many appearing in the video have previously been called out by fact-checking organisations for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.( Supplied ) But Kohn's statements are hypothetical. The original video, posted to YouTube and Instagram, identifies the report as part of a "simulation game event". Some online users have overlooked this key caveat, reposting the video and using the claims within it to amplify anti-vaccination rhetoric. "GERMANY HALTS ALL C19 VACCINES, SAYS THEY ARE UNSAFE AND NO LONGER RECOMMENDED," one Twitter user wrote. "There has been a 2 week pause so they can reflect on the damages being caused to their people." The clip has also made its way onto video streaming platforms BitChute and Brand New Tube, with one user reposting the video to the latter with the title "Breaking News!! Germany Halts all C19 Vaccines, says they are no longer safe". The caption below the clip directs audiences to "wake up" and be prepared for government "enforcements to come". In reality, Germany's vaccination efforts have intensified in recent weeks, with 59 per cent of its population fully vaccinated. As reported by online news outlet Techarp, the Federal Minister for Health, Jens Spahn, recently took to Twitter to celebrate 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in six months. Meanwhile, Professor Lothar Wieler is currently president of the Robert Koch Institute since, having been appointed in 2015. Mr Kohn is not associated with the institute and, in May 2020, was suspended from his role in the Federal Ministry of the Interior after publishing an unauthorised report criticising Germany's response to the pandemic and downplaying COVID-19 as "a false alarm". Beyond Mr Kohn, other participants in the video series have also been called out by fact-checking organisations for COVID-19-related misinformation. The video's so-called chancellor, Reiner Fuellmich, for instance, is an American-German lawyer purportedly behind a misguided effort to have COVID-19 vaccines banned under the Nuremberg Code. Earlier this year Mr Kohn and Mr Fuellmich ran as candidates for the dieBasis party in the Saxony-Anhalt state election winning a 0.7 per cent share of the vote. A third participant in the video has previously accused the World Health Organisation of using COVID-19 as a business enterprise, while another likened the severity of COVID-19 to influenza. Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from September 8 with a look back at our blogReport from 57 ‘scientists, doctors and policy experts' misleads on vaccine safety Experts say there is no evidence risk of blood clots after receiving AstraZeneca's vaccine is higher in people taking the oral contraceptive.( Pixabay ) A report by a group of 57 self-described "leading scientists, doctors and policy experts" calling for "an immediate end to all [COVID-19] vaccine programs" has been shared within local Facebook groups after being published by a Canadian website promoting anti-vaccine and COVID-19 conspiracies. The report, which lists Roxana Bruno and Peter McCullough as authors, along with 55 others, draws on misleading evidence to call into question "the safety and efficacy of the current COVID-19 vaccines". The report, for example, states that a "lack of thorough testing in animals" during the development of the vaccines, which supposedly lasted "less than 3.5 months", raised "questions regarding [their] safety". Coronavirus questions answered Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC's Coronacast podcast. Read more However, as fact checkers at the Associated Press, Reuters and USA Today have previously found, extensive animal trials did occur during the development phases of COVID-19 vaccines. "Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have all said in press releases that they tested their COVID-19 vaccines on animals in pre-clinical trials," USA Today said in May. "In each case, trial results suggested that the vaccines were effective at limiting coronavirus infection. "Studies reporting those results were published in peer-reviewed journals." Similarly, according to the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was tested in rhesus macaques, mice and ferrets with the trials showing "that there were no adverse safety events". And while COVID-19 vaccines were indeed developed quickly, the normal safety protocols for vaccine development were still in place, as the British Society for Immunology explained on their website. "In the emergency state of the COVID-19 pandemic the scientists, doctors, ethics approval boards, manufacturers and regulatory agencies have all come together to work harder and faster [than normal]," the society noted. Another claim made in the report, that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had estimated that children and young people up to the age of 19 had "a 99.997 per cent survival rate if infected with SARS-CoV-2", has also been debunked. Checking that claim in December, PolitFact found that the CDC had "not released survival rates" and didn't "have the data to do so". Meanwhile, a claim in the report that the risk of rare blood clots as a result of the AstraZeneca vaccine would "presumably be higher in those already at risk of blood clots, including women who use oral contraceptives" has been rubbished by experts. Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreakDownload the ABC News app and subscribe to our range of news alerts for the latest on how the pandemic is impacting the world According to the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London, there was "no evidence that ongoing or very recent use of combined hormonal contraception affects risk of" blot clots associated with the vaccine. This was echoed by Catherine Bennett, chair in epidemiology at Deakin University, who told Fact Check that while some oral contraceptives do increase the risk of blood clots, these are different from the type of clots associated with the vaccine, which would not increase the risk further. As for the authors of the report, both Dr Bruno and Dr McCullough have previously been called out for spreading COVID-19 misinformation. Clive Palmer says WA's vaccine passport border restrictions breach s117 of the constitution. Is he right? West Australian Premier Mark McGowan recently beefed up the state's already hardline border policy by requiring all eligible travellers from NSW to be at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, a move which prompted United Australia Party chairman Clive Palmer to threaten a High Court challenge on the grounds that the policy breaches section 117 of the constitution. "Clive Palmer confirmed today that the actions [of] Premier Mark McGowan to introduce an interstate vaccination passport for people travelling to WA was in breach of section 117 of the Australian constitution," a news release from the UAP declared. Fact Check this week found that claim to be doubtful. Fact check: Vaccine passports and the constitution United Australia Party chairman Clive Palmer says WA's requirement that people travelling to the state from NSW prove they have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine breaches section 117 of the constitution. Is he correct? RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates. Read more Experts told Fact Check that in order to mount a successful challenge to WA's border restrictions under section 117 of the constitution, Mr Palmer would need to demonstrate discrimination on the basis of state of residence. Although Mr McGowan has often referred explicitly to WA residents returning from NSW requiring proof of vaccination, WA authorities told Fact Check the vaccine requirement applied equally to non-residents and residents of WA, creating a significant hurdle to proving a breach of section 117. Furthermore, experts said section 117 was not absolute in its application and would be subject to a so-called "balancing test", where the High Court would weigh up the rights of an individual against the social protections offered to residents of WA by measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In a previous constitutional challenge brought by Mr Palmer, which relied upon section 92 of the constitution, the High Court ruled that WA's border closure laws complied with the constitution during "a plague or epidemic".