With the massive Covid-19 inoculation programme off to a start in Malaysia, social media messages including on the popular WhatsApp mobile platform have again seen an increase in claims questioning vaccines.
This time, they are laden with medical jargon and academic citations, in an effort to convince the educated layman reader that they are not one of the many fake “conspiracy theories” against vaccination.
One post has been making the rounds in the form of a “research article” published in a journal bearing a medical name.
It warns of a risk of prion disease, a brain-related neurodegenerative disease, in Pfizer’s vaccine, administration of which began after the official jab given to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday.
A copy of the article, titled “Covid-19 RNA-based vaccines and the risk of prion disease”, written by J Bart Classen, has been making the rounds on social media.
Among others, Classen said he would not rule out the theory that Covid-19 was part of a bio-attack plan hatched within the US government.
“Such a theory is not far fetched given that the 2001 anthrax attack in the US originated at Fort Detrick, a US army bioweapon facility. Because the FBI’s anthrax investigation was closed against the advice of the lead FBI agent in the case, there are likely conspirators
still working in the US government.
“In such a scenario the primary focus of stopping a bioweapons attack must be to apprehend the conspirators or the attacks will never cease. Approving a vaccine, utilising novel RNA technology without extensive testing, is extremely dangerous. The vaccine could be a bioweapon and even more dangerous than the original infection,” he wrote.
Checks by MalaysiaNow revealed that the author is an anti-vaccinationist.
When contacted, a spokesman for the health ministry (MOH) also questioned the journal in which the research was published, “Microbiology & Infectious Diseases”, saying it is not a reputable medical publication.
“There are so many journals out there but usually reputable ones are from Lancet, BMJ and NEJM, among others,” he told MalaysiaNow.
Classen said there were risks of Pfizer’s Ribonucleic acid or RNA-based vaccine inducing prion disease in humans, such as the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a fatal brain disorder in humans similar to the Mad Cow Disease in animals.
He claimed the RNA sequence in the vaccine contains sequences believed to induce TDP-43 and FUS – binding proteins – leading to the development of common neurodegenerative diseases.
But the MOH expert said there were no known cases of the said occurrences, adding that the risks highlighted in the article were only theoretical.
“We have been vaccinating over 30 million and there hasn’t been any case of CJD or prion-related illness,” he told MalaysiaNow.
He said the public can rest assured that Covid-19 vaccines are safe, and have undergone strict testing and quality control prior to approval by pharmaceutical bodies worldwide.