Wuhan remains the most likely origin of the pandemic itself, providing scientists with important data about how the virus evolved and what lessons we could draw from this for the future.
New outbreaks of the virus in China itself, after months of having largely got the pandemic under control, also add to the urgency of deflecting blame outwards, particularly as cities are plunged back into lockdown and potential economic misery.
But the promotion of vaccine disinformation could have major repercussions, not only in the US but also in China.
On Monday, Global Times, the state-backed tabloid which has led the charge on attacking the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA-based vaccines, used the death of a single patient in California to claim without evidence that the shots were dangerous. Health experts have said repeatedly that deaths will occur after vaccination — especially in the early stages, when most people inoculated are elderly and sick — but this does not mean they were caused by the shot itself.
Global Times even cited health authorities in Placer county, who it said reject “the link between the person’s death and the vaccine.” But this did not stop the paper using this as a peg to quote anonymous Chinese experts claiming mRNA shots were dangerous and “may contain unknown risks.”
This reporting goes beyond attacking the specific Pfizer shot too, suggesting that the technology used to develop the newer mRNA vaccines is itself untrustworthy — a claim that has no substance and could have repercussions for future Chinese products as well as the existing Pfizer/Moderna shots.
But as Xi himself noted Monday, vaccines are vital to the global pandemic response, indeed, this is why Beijing has invested in providing inoculations to developing countries. But such an effort will be undermined if, along with vaccines, China is also exporting misinformation and hesitancy.