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Infowars video on Australia’s COVID vaccine program misfires

2021-02-26 12:00:58

The Statement

US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has claimed that Australia shut down its COVID-19 vaccine program because the treatment “does not work and hurts people” in a video shared to the Australia-based “CBN Breaking News” Facebook page.

The lengthy Infowars segment was streamed to the page on February 2 with a caption reading: “BOMBSHELL: MAJOR GOVERNMENTS SAY COVID-19 VACCINE A FRAUD.”

In the first minute of the video, Jones makes multiple false claims including that mRNA vaccines are a “bioweapon” and “gene therapy”. Later in the footage, he says: “A month ago, Australia suspends, nationwide, their entire vaccine program, because it makes people deathly ill, killed a bunch of people, and they came up positive for HIV.”

The Facebook video had been viewed more than 17,000 times and attracted more than 500 reactions and comments at the time of writing. It is not clear when the original Infowars segment was published.

A Facebook video post
 Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claims that Australia has shut its COVID-19 vaccine program. 

The Analysis

The footage in the post features multiple false statements, including that Australia stopped its vaccination program because the inoculations killed people.

In the video, Jones claims Australia suspended its “entire vaccine program” a month earlier before showing a screenshot of a Fortune story headlined: “Why Australia just canceled an order for 51 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.” (video mark 9min 5sec)

The December 11 article covers the federal government’s decision to cancel a planned order of a vaccine being developed by the University of Queensland (UQ) in partnership with Australian biotech company CSL.

Clinical trials for the vaccine were cancelled before proceeding to phase three, it was announced on that date, after several phase one trial participants returned false positive HIV tests. However, there were no reports of deaths or major illnesses among those receiving the vaccine candidate.

A UQ statement at the time stated: “There were no serious adverse events or safety concerns reported in the 216 trial participants.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt issued a statement on the same day that said the decision to stop testing before a phase three trial had “not been based on the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine candidate”.

The Department of Health said in a statement to AAP FactCheck that it had not been notified of any deaths occurring in clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia.

Jones’s claim that trial participants “came up positive for HIV” also misrepresents the facts.

According to CSL, the vaccine generated antibodies that interfered with some human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) tests, causing false positives. The company added that this was unexpected, but there was no possibility that the vaccine caused infections and follow-up tests showed recipients did not have HIV.

It is also incorrect to state that Australia suspended its entire vaccination program. More than 142,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Sydney airport on February 15 for the first stage of the national vaccination initiative, which began with initial doses being administered on February 21. The Australian government has said for months that it was planning a full-scale rollout from March.

According to the Department of Health, Australia remains committed to four agreements for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, with Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford University-AstraZeneca, Novavax and the COVAX Facility.

On Jones’s claim that mRNA vaccines are a form of “gene therapy” – a treatment that involves modifying or replacing genes to treat illness – AAP FactCheck has previously debunked suggestions that these treatments will modify human genetics or the underlying DNA.

A COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic in Melbourne.
 Australia began the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccination program on February 21. 

The Verdict

The video makes several false claims regarding Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, which has not been suspended as suggested by Jones. The program started on February 21 and Australia remains committed to four vaccine agreements.

There have been no reports of deaths associated with an earlier trial involving a CSL-University of Queensland vaccine candidate, nor did the treatment make people HIV-positive. Claims that mRNA vaccines alter people’s genes also have no foundation.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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