A montage of statements made during a panel discussion attended by United States (US) infectious disease doctor Anthony Fauci and Health and Human Services (HHS) officials on 'Universal Flu Vaccine' has been shared with a false claim that it shows proof that COVID-19 was "planned" to "enforce a vaccine mandate".
The viral video was part of a bulletin broadcast on a far-right American TV news channel One America News (OAN), presented by a reporter called Pearson Sharp.
However, we went through the interaction and the transcript available on C-SPAN and didn't find any evidence to prove that a new influenza virus was being created nor did the panellists discuss vaccine mandates. Fauci and others were talking about creating a “universal flu vaccine” that could possibly be effective against the different strains of the influenza virus.
Senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan shared the video on his Twitter platform and said, "Newly uncovered video shows Anthony Fauci & other HHS officials discussing how a new virus from China could be used to enforce universal vaccination in October of 2019! Wow! So, Fauci funds the Wuhan research to make Covid, gets patent for Vaccine&pushes it!"
Bhushan shared a link to a video published on Canadian video-sharing platform Rumble, which attracted millions of users after Facebook and YouTube imposed a certain censorship on misleading content related to COVID-19 vaccines, and has become a major source of COVID-19 misinformation since then.
Several other social media users also shared the same claim, archives of which can be found here, here and here.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
By looking at the banner behind the speakers, we found that they were talking at The Future of Health Summit at Milken Institute, which was held in October 2019.
The almost one-hour footage of the interaction is present on C-SPAN, with a description that says, “Health experts discussed the scientific and technological prospects of an effective universal influenza vaccine. Speakers included Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Margaret Hamburg, former FDA commissioner. Panelists discussed the need for more funding for research, better collaboration between the private and government sectors, advances in technology in flu research and the goal of a universal flu vaccine.”
Firstly, it is misleading to say that the video has been "uncovered" as the video has been available to the public since the day of the summit. Secondly, the interpretations and conclusions drawn from the short clips were wrong.
CLAIM: "Dr Fauci And Other Wanted Discussed How to Enforce Universal Flu Vaccination"
The anchor in the news segment says that Dr Fauci and other health experts were looking for a way to "enforce" a universal flu vaccine. A keyword search on C-SPAN's website would show that the word "enforce" was never used by any panellist, including the moderator Michael Specter.
The OAN anchor also claims that Fauci "complained" about vaccines taking a decade to be ready, if done right.
By going through the video, it is clear that Fauci is talking about developing an "aspirational" universal flu vaccine, which could replace the early flu shots, which are known to change from season to season.
"When we talk about a universal flu vaccine it really right now is an aspirational goal in that the quest being to make a vaccine that induces a response in the body to that part of the influenza that doesn't change from season to season from decade to decade or even that much when you get a pandemic," Fauci explains (3:51) in the video.
It is also important to note here that people who spread misinformation around COVID-19 and the vaccine have constantly compared the novel coronavirus with the seasonal flu, a theory that has been debunked many times.
Scientists, including Fauci, have long discussed the need for a universal flu vaccine and we found reports on it from at least 2010.
On 1 June 2021, the US National Institutes of Health began a clinical trial of a universal influenza vaccine.
CLAIM: "COVID-19 Pandemic Was Planned"
The OAN anchor uses a clipped statement made by former Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority Director Dr Rick Bright to claim that the doctors were "planning to create a pandemic" and in turn forced people to use an mRNA vaccine.
Misinformation around the mRNA vaccines has been around for a while and several of such claims have been debunked.
During the discussion, Bright was asked by the moderator if it was possible to create vaccines in quicker way as opposed to traditional methods.
"Suppose you take a plane from Hong Kong and are infected by the time your plane lands in New York. There ought to be a vaccine assembled undeliverable to you. How crazy is that? How far are we from that and will we ever get there," asks Specter quoting controversial molecular-biologist Craig Venter.
Bright answers that question using a hypothetical situation and says that it was indeed possible to do so with the available technology.
"If we can move into more synthetic the nucleic acid-based messenger RNA base those sequences can be rapidly shared around the world... Putting those in a system to print those on a patch, a self-administered vaccine could happen," Bright said.
He also added, "The technologies are out there. We haven't demonstrated their true effectiveness and the ability for a vaccine, but it's not too crazy to think that an outbreak of a novel avian virus could occur in China somewhere, we could get this RNA sequence from that, beam it to a number of regional centers. The technology is there to be adapted and assembled to put into that futuristic view of rapid response to an emerging novel threat."
Bright didn't mention that the vaccine would be tested out on the public but was simply explaining that such a technology exists wherein vaccines can be adapted, developed and the information regarding them can be transferred to different places in a small amount of time.
It is clear that statements made during the summit were clipped and taken out of context to create a false narrative that the COVID-19 pandemic was planned by Fauci and other senior US health officials to "enforce" a vaccine mandate.
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