Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is increasingly pushing conspiracy theories about vaccines for COVID-19. They are not effective, and there are "accelerating" instances of death and infection from them, a headline on Iran's Tasnim News Agency website claimed Saturday.
There is no evidence that vaccines are hazardous, despite Iran's media pushing this misleading information.
Twitter took the unprecedented action of removing one of the tweets in which Khamenei claimed vaccines from the US and UK are not trustworthy and "contaminate" people. Iran's media outlets, including PressTV in English and Tasnim, have been pushing similar conspiracy theories.
The Twitter removal of the tweet was a rare instance of Western social-media giants actually confronting Iran's far-right authoritarian regime. Most major social-media companies have removed far-right content in the West and have now suspended the account of US President Donald Trump. Iran's extremist leader and his cohorts continue to tweet freely.
The Iranian regime habitually spreads false and misleading "news" about COVID vaccines.
The new Iranian regime agenda of spreading false, misleading, fake and conspiracy-laden news about COVID vaccines clearly comes from the top. It is being pushed and driven from Khamenei's office.
This is clear because in the past, the Iranian foreign minister has told colleagues abroad that the country is suffering and needs support and that US sanctions had harmed efforts against COVID-19.
Iran infamously covered up the extent of COVID in the country in February, and many key members close to the regime became ill. The country has been hard hit since then, especially minority, vulnerable and peripheral sectors of the population who do not receive enough support from the government.
Iran's regime is often appeased or gets a pass from Western countries, which tend to be more willing to condemn right-wing regimes, such as in Hungary, rather than Iran. The COVID-19 conspiracy theories being pushed by Iran in English through state media may make some challenge the regime since COVID conspiracies are taken seriously as misinformation in the West.
On January 9, a Press TV headline in English claimed: "US COVID vaccines are extreme hazardous." Iran used the usual tactic of laundering this view through a foreign "expert," whom they claimed had determined this.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has joined the crusade against "foreign" vaccines by claiming they must not be "tested" on Iranians. There is no evidence they have been tested on Iranians.
Tasnim on Saturday also carried a story that showed a hospital and claimed vaccines in the UK were "accelerating" infection. The report was written in such a way as to make it seem that there was a correlation or that the vaccine was not effective.
Iran's media did not bother to inform readers that millions need to be vaccinated and that most have not received the two doses necessary.
"Statistics on COVID and mortality show that the United States and the United Kingdom continue to see an increase in the number of cases and deaths after the corona vaccine was developed and injected," Tasnim wrote. "It is possible that the incidence of morbidity and mortality in these countries has intensified."
"While American and British vaccines have been injected in various countries, their effects have not yet been felt," the Iranian report claimed. "This, along with some of the side effects of vaccine injections reported in the media, has called into question their effectiveness. In addition, the use of such vaccines against other countries is also controversial."
Iran's media made it appear the vaccines were being used to harm other countries rather than help them. This is part of the regime's scaremongering.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.