Vladimir Putin doesn’t want you to take the Covid vaccine.
‘We’ve been tracking the anti-vaxxer propaganda, and a lot of it is linked to his bot-farm in St Petersburg,’ a Minister told me.
‘Part of it is trying to sow the usual disinformation and chaos. And part is due to the fact he’s worried about Russia being seen to lag behind on producing its own vaccine.’
Up until now, Britain’s anti-vax movement has appeared to be the preserve of a bunch of misfits and oddballs.
In May, the Godhead of UK conspiracy theorists, David Icke, was kicked off social media for claiming the coronavirus vaccine would be used to implant microchips in the population.
Vladimir Putin (pictured) doesn’t want you to take the Covid vaccine. ‘We’ve been tracking the anti-vaxxer propaganda, and a lot of it is linked to his bot-farm in St Petersburg,’ a Minister told me
And last week, Piers Corbyn – brother of that other Godhead, Jeremy – was convicted of breaching lockdown restrictions while protesting as part of his own Covid conspiracy crusade.
WILL MATT BAG HIMSELF A JAB
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has boldly taken up the challenge from our very own Piers Morgan to take the vaccine live on GMTV.
But I understand there’s a snag.
Hancock is only 42, and the cut-off for the first phase of vaccinations is 50.
‘Matt’s desperate to do it,’ a ministerial colleague tells me, ‘and he’s looking for a way round the rules.
He’s been telling people that as Health Secretary he’s technically an NHS worker, and that could bump him up the queue.’
Dr Hancock, I presume.
‘It doesn’t inject any virus but POISONS for satanic DNA altering + fertility trashing,’ he tweeted defiantly, after a judge ruled his arrest at the Hyde Park protest had been necessary and proportionate.
But now, with the vaccine that could finally end our Covid nightmare about to be rolled out, Britain’s overseas enemies are mobilising.
On Wednesday, Putin’s international mouthpiece, Russia Today, greeted news of UK vaccine authorisation by reporting that ‘Britain became the first nation in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for widespread use on Wednesday.
The announcement was delivered in pompous style by the government’.
The article was headlined: ‘Britain’s Pfizer vaccine announcement gives anti-vaxxers unlikely boost: blamed on Russia without any evidence.’
There’s plenty of evidence. Putin began leveraging the anti-vaxxer movement as part of his destabilisation operation long before the appearance of Covid.
In 2018, a report by the American Johns Hopkins University revealed how Russia had identified vaccinations as a ‘wedge issue’.
A number of the accounts that had been established to interfere in the 2016 US election were found to also be engaging heavily in the anti-vaccination debate.
According to the report’s authors, ‘by playing both sides, they erode public trust in vaccination, exposing us all to the risk of infectious diseases’.
Which is exactly what the Kremlin is now trying to do in the midst of a global pandemic.
As soon as it emerged that the Oxford vaccine was making progress, GCHQ was tasked with defending it from a Russian misinformation campaign.
And last week the Army mobilised its shadowy 77th Brigade, which specialises in ‘Counter-adversarial Information Activity’, with the mission to specifically counter anti-Covid vaccine cyber activity from Russian and Chinese operatives.
But while our spooks and soldiers are deploying, there is uncertainty in Downing Street about the best way to confront Putin and his dark-net saboteurs.
‘One of the problems we have with this stuff is whenever you talk about it, you boost it,’ a Minister explained.
Up until now, Britain’s anti-vax movement has appeared to be the preserve of a bunch of misfits and oddballs. But now, with the vaccine that could finally end our Covid nightmare about to be rolled out, Britain’s overseas enemies are mobilising (stock image)
‘So if you go out and try to combat anti-vax propaganda, unless you’re careful you find you are actually promoting anti-vax propaganda.’
Another issue is Boris Johnson’s personal world view. While he has no time for the anti-vax conspiracy theorists, his libertarian instincts mean he has sympathy for those who are wary of creeping ‘vaccine authoritarianism’.
That’s why he has resisted calls for it to be mandatory. And why, I’m told, there are no plans to make vaccination compulsory among his Ministers. ‘His feeling is that’s not the British way of doing things,’ a senior Government source says. ‘It’s not what we do.’
And then there’s a view that by taking on the anti-vaxxer movement too directly – and being seen to push the vaccine too aggressively – in an era of heightened scepticism towards ‘the Establishment’, his entreaties could have the opposite effect.
‘If you push too hard it can be counter-productive,’ another Government insider says. ‘It’s important we’re not seen to be forcing this on people. It’s not just that it’s not the right thing to do – it wouldn’t actually work.’
All of which is fair. But the reality is that when it comes to dealing with the anti-vaxxer movement, the gloves have to come off now.
Putin is trying to use Covid to kill people on the streets of Britain just as surely as he did when his agents released novichok on the streets of Salisbury. Pictured: Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal, a former Russian spy critically ill after suspected poisoning in Salisbury
Concerns about how the Government has managed the lockdown are legitimate. But mad conspiracy theories about the Covid vaccine are not. We can no longer simply dismiss stories about evil government schemes to control their populace as the wild ramblings of a few harmless eccentrics. They now form part of a campaign of state-sponsored terrorism.
People are going to die as a result of these lies. And if public faith in the vaccine is undermined significantly, a lot of people are going to die.
We are not simply under attack from the Covid virus. We’re also under direct attack by a hostile foreign power.
Putin is trying to use Covid to kill people on the streets of Britain just as surely as he did when his agents released novichok on the streets of Salisbury.
Boris faces an Eton mess
As the PM ponders a reshuffle, I’m told there’s talk of sending a bold message to ‘Red Wall’ seats by imposing what No 10 is calling ‘The seven per cent rule’.
‘Boris could show he’s serious to Red Wall Tories by committing to appoint a Cabinet that reflects the country,’ a Minister tells me, ‘and the way he could do that is by guaranteeing not more than seven per cent of the Cabinet are from public schools.’
A cull of Old Etonians? Does the Bullingdon Boy really have it in him?
So we have to fight back. All of us. If people like Piers Corbyn march again to peddle their lies, then the police and the courts should act.
If they take to their social-media accounts to repeat the lies spread by David Icke, then the social-media companies should act.
If Vladimir Putin continues to wage his campaign of state sponsored terror, then Boris and his Ministers need to act.
And when we see any of these lies circulating, each of has to speak out against them.
This is not a ‘culture war’ issue. It’s a real war – literally a matter of life and death. It’s not an extension of Brexit, or even an extension of the debate about how to best respond to Covid. It’s a way of ending that debate. Of eradicating the scourge of Covid for good.
Yes, Boris is right not to force the vaccine down people’s throats. But he can’t simply hope that if we ignore them, Putin and his anti-vax Lord Haw-Haws will go away. We have seen too many times in the social-media age what happens when the truth turns its back on a lie.
This morning, the St Petersburg bot-farm servers are whirring into life. Putin’s biological weapons attack on Britain is about to recommence. Exposing his lies, and trusting in the Covid vaccine, is how we defeat him.