Vaccinating with the Truth. Fact Check of MPs’ and Experts’ Statements about Covishield

The lies of politicians and experts discredit the vaccination campaign. We are debunking the common myths about Covishield

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COVID-19 vaccination is underway in Ukraine – as of March 4, nearly 12.5 thousand Ukrainians received the first dose of the vaccine. In contrast,  almost everybody has already received the first dose of lies about the Covishield vaccine supplied to Ukraine. Politicians and pseudo-experts are disseminating fake news and myths about the vaccine from TV screens to the multimillion audience. 

The first instances of fake news about the future COVID-19 vaccines popped up back in the spring of last year, although the companies were only starting to work on the vaccine at that time. The anti-vaccinators frightened people with severe side effects and death caused by vaccinations, saying that the vaccine would modify the DNA and turn us all into GMOs, not failing to mention the chipping, of course. All of this was a lie back then and is still a lie today.

However, over the last two weeks, since the start of vaccinations in Ukraine, fake news themes were altered. They are now centring around Covishield as a cheap and poor-quality version of the original Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Meaning that rubbish, to which the entire world said no,  is being supplied to Ukraine and that Ukrainians are being used for experimentation.  These myths are also being spread by the MPs and “well-known” experts from the TV channels of the “Medvedchuk pool”. The former are doing it to unjustly criticise the MoH while the latter are also propagating the Russian vaccine.   

We repeatedly caught politicians disseminating fake news in the past and even dedicated an entire piece to the main anti-vaccinator among the MPs – Yurii Kamelchuk. We have now collected recent false statements made by politicians about the Covishield vaccine to use them as examples to see what is true and what is a myth.

Fact No.1 Covishield is the same as Oxford-AstraZeneca but manufactured by an Indian plant

False

“When I asked why, as Mr. Korniienko put it and it’s true, they refuse to vaccinate, pardon me this non-parliamentary expression uttered by a doctor in despair: “Because they brought shit.”

Petro Poroshenko, March 1, 2021 (01:44-02:07)

False

“Our entire society wants to know the answer to the following question: why is Ukraine getting the vaccine which is an Indian copy of the versions of the world’s companies whose efficacy is questionable?”

Taras Batenko, March 2, 2021 (11:53-12:04)

False

“I’ve got this question: where is the Chinese vaccine for which we paid almost one billion hryvnias? Silence. Where is Pfizer? Silence. Instead, we’ve paid another 1.5 billion hryvnias and haven’t gotten any AstraZeneca but some Indian copy of Astra Zeneca that we’re now using to vaccinate our citizens.”

Oleksii Honcharenko, March 2, 2021 (52:35-52:57)

The vaccine supplied to Ukraine is a joint product of Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. In July 2020, the company signed an agreement with the Serum Institute of India licensing it to produce 1 billion vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries.

That is, Ukraine did receive an AstraZeneca product manufactured in another country. Genetically, it is based on the same adenovirus and contains an adhesion protein, i.e. the part used by the virus to bind to cells, from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

According to various data, the Covishield vaccine of the Serum Institute of India has an efficacy of 60% to 82.4%. Phase III of clinical trials of the vaccine was conducted in Brazil, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

And no, it is not an Indian copy or two different vaccines, as Pavlo Rozenko, a former minister for social policy, wrote.

The Covishield ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine is authorised in the State Register of Medicinal Products. In a previous report on clinical trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine published in The Lancet, the authors write as follows: We report the results of the first clinical study of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222). That is, the labelling in the company’s report corresponds to that used in the process of authorising the vaccine. Also, there is a release on AstraZeneca’s website saying: COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, formerly AZD1222. We, therefore, conclude that it is the same vaccine.

The WHO also recommends Covishield for emergency use. During a briefing on AstraZeneca vaccines, the Director-General of the WHO said: two versions of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. That is, once again, Covishield is a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India.

Covishield is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India under a license from Oxford-AstraZeneca. 

Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons also wrote that “the Covishield and Oxford-AstraZeneca AZD1222 vaccines are the same. Covishield is the name licensed for AZD1222 manufactured in India.”

The New York Times also writes that the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Covishield vaccines are the same, Covishield being a local brand name in India.

Fact No.2. No widespread side effects of using Covishield have been noted in Ukraine

False

“The thing is that on February 25, 40 healthcare workers were vaccinated at the Odessa Hospital of Infectious Diseases, of whom 22 immediately suffered severe consequences: fever of over 38% (i.e. degrees – ed.), a rather grave condition. I’d like to ask here, are we going to cover all this up? Will we continue to offer immunisation with this vaccine which, judging by the outcomes and by how healthcare workers in large numbers across the country are refusing to be inoculated with it, means they know something, and they are testing this vaccine on themselves.”

Yuliia Tymoshenko, March 1, 2021 (00:06-00:48)

During an online briefing on February 26, 2021, Viktor Liashko spoke about the first undesirable effects after the immunisation, in particular seven such cases. According to Liashko, those cases, however, are not severe, and possible side effects are reported in the vaccine’s fact sheet. According to Maksym Stepanov, side effects after the vaccination include fever and redness of the skin where the injection is given. Similar effects can be caused by other vaccines (e.g. tetanus or measles vaccines).

It is known that the inoculation site hurts due to an afflux of blood to where the vaccine was injected. This also can cause fever. Side effects are not caused by the virus itself but because the immune system is fighting the virus. Most side effects are, therefore, a normal thing because it means that the vaccine is working. 

Fact No.3. Other world’s countries also import Covishield from India

False

“Not only did we disrupt the production of our own vaccine, not only did we fail to purchase a high-quality vaccine in time, but we’re also going about the world picking up what no one else wants to use.”

Yuliia Tymoshenko, March 1, 2021 (01:07-01:17)

Currently, India exports Covishield only. According to the Ministry of External Affairs of India, the vaccine is supplied to Bhutan, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Algeria, Kuwait, UAE, South Africa, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mauritius, Morocco, Nepal, Sri-Lanka, Maldives and Seychelles. Health Canada also officially authorised the Covishield vaccine for use, with the UK standing to receive 10 million doses of the Covishield vaccine from India.

False

“As for our global issue regarding today’s Indian …vaccine. Well, just listen to this, Zimbabwe said no to it.”

Iryna Palamar, 22/02/2021 (00:00-00:09)

Zimbabwe did not say no to the Indian vaccine. On February 19, 2021, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said that his country received 75 thousand COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in India, planning to purchase more. 

False

“It’s not understood why this vaccine, why it’s better than others. It’s not clear why the state of India offered this vaccine to many countries for free, as I see it – to see how it works; Ukraine became the first country to buy this vaccine.”

Mykhailo Dobkin, March 2, 2021 (01:21-01:37)

Manipulation

“This vaccine (Сovishield – ed.) is supplied by India to neighbouring countries as part of so-called “vaccine diplomacy”: Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and other countries get it for free – to establish relations. However, Ukraine buys it.”

Oleksandr Dubinskyi, February 23, 2021 (08:21-08:42)

There are incredibly high demand and a waiting list for vaccines globally, so Ukraine cannot get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines yet. Besides, it is easier to store AstraZeneca at temperatures of 2C to 8C, and not -70C like Pfizer or -20C like Moderna.

India supplied Covishield for free only to some countries (Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives) as part of “vaccine diplomacy ”. Most of the countries where the vaccine is supplied pay for it, e.g. Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Morocco.

Fact No.4. Covishield underwent the necessary clinical trials and is authorised across the EU

False

“The Indian vaccine, it’s not authorised in Europe. If it’s not authorised in Europe, it means we can’t bring it in here according to Ukrainian laws.”

Iryna Palamar, expert, February 22, 2021 (00:33-00:42)

The AstraZeneca vaccine was recommended for use by European Medicines Agency back on January 29, and on February 22, it was also authorised in Ukraine. If the vaccine is authorised for emergency use in the USA, UK and a host of other nations, it will be quickly authorized in Ukraine too.

Manipulation

“As it turned out later, the vaccine they got us wasn’t tested even on those poor Hindus where this vaccine is manufactured.”

Volodymyr Katsman, expert, February 27, 2021 (01:49-01:57)

True, no testing was done in India, but Phase III clinical trials of AstraZeneca were conducted in the USA, Brazil, South Africa and the UK. We would like to reiterate that India did not develop this vaccine but was licensed by AstraZeneca to manufacture it. Therefore, the fact that no clinical trials were performed in India does not make this vaccine poor in quality.

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