Facebook Called Out For Vaccine Marketing Alliance
Facebook Called Out For Vaccine Marketing Alliance

By Alice Giordano

A health alliance formed by Facebook in June of 2021 has been funding research into “how best to use behavioral science, social media and digital platforms to build confidence in and access to vaccines.”

Called the “Alliance for Advancing Health Online (AAHO),” members of the Facebook-led group include the World Health Organization, pharmaceutical giant Merck, and the CDC Foundation—which is the fundraising arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has corporate partners that include Pfizer and other world giants in vaccine manufacturing.

In an email sent last June to White House staffers announcing the formation of the alliance, Facebook described it as an initiative to “boost vaccination confidence through social media” noting that a “vaccine confidence fund” had been created under the group to finance campaigns to diminish vaccine hesitancy.  

The email described the fund as a $40 million multi-year initiative. Facebook and Merck contributed $20 million each, according to Facebook.

A health worker prepares a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a community health center in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

“This is absolutely appalling,” Pierre Kory, president of the Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, a prominent advocate for alternative COVID-19 treatment, told The Epoch Times.

“This doesn’t have a true, scientifically-supported public health objective for getting people vaccinated, it’s more of a marketing aim with the sole goal of increasing vaccine rates.”

The email shows it was sent to Becca Siegel, senior adviser of the COVID-19 response at The White House; Tericka Lambert, director of digital engagement at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); and HHS staffer Monica Vines, who works in the agency’s ASPA digital division that leads the development of HHS web content, social media, and implements digital information policy.

It was also sent to Georgeta Dragoiu, a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow of the COVID-19 Vaccine Public Education Strategy and Media Campaign. The campaign runs the program “We Can Do This.” A current article on its website has the headline “Addressing Vaccine Misconceptions.”

“It’s difficult for me to understand this as anything other than a government propaganda campaign,” Stanford professor of medicine Dr. Jay Bhattacharya told The Epoch Times.

It is unclear how The White House responded to the email. Multiple calls made by The Epoch Times to Facebook (now Meta) for comment on the alliance were never returned. The White House press office, or individual recipients of the Facebook email, also didn’t respond to inquiries made by The Epoch Times.

Amy Tolchinsky, communication director for the CDC Foundation released a written statement to The Epoch Times in response to inquiries about its involvement in the Facebook-initiated alliance.

“While we are not involved in its operations, received any funding for our involvement, or provided any funding, our association with the Alliance for Advancing Health Online, which was publicly announced in June of 2021, is a way to educate the public about the safety and efficacy of vaccines to a broader audience.”

Tolchinsky also stated that the CDC Foundation has “formalized partnerships with many U.S. and international philanthropies, organizations, corporations, and individuals prior to, and since the beginning of the pandemic.”

In the June 15, 2021, email sent to White House staffers, Facebook’s then Public Policy Manager Nkechi Payton Iheme listed the foundation as one of several organizations that made up the alliance.

In addition to Pfizer, the CDC Foundation’s corporate partner list includes several of the world’s largest vaccine makers including AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Emergent BioSolutions, and Bavarian Nordic.

Iheme, who has since left Facebook, also identified Merck, WHO, the World Bank, and several vaccine advocacy groups as members of the alliance in the email.

Ethical Considerations

Vaccine scientist Dr. Robert Malone, who was banned in December by Twitter after raising safety concerns about the COVID vaccine, told The Epoch Times he believes the Alliance poses a direct violation of ethical responsibilities in medicine, which he said is to disclose the risks of any recommended treatment along with alternative treatment options.

“If Facebook wants to play doctor then it has to fulfill the professional and ethical obligations of the profession,” he said.

Malone, who played a key role in inventing the mRNA technology used to make the experimental COVID vaccine, told The Epoch Times he does not have a Facebook page.

Questions About Suppression of Alternative Treatments

The June 2021 email was obtained by the conservative group Information Consent Action Network (ICAN) as part of its campaign to show how Facebook partnered with the federal government to suppress from the public the proven efficacy of alternative treatments like Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

ICAN attorney Aaron Siri told The Epoch Times, “It creates a dangerous precedent when social media outlets are carrying the government’s message while suppressing messaging that’s contrary to what the government is trying to promote.”

Siri added that the social media, big pharma, and federal government-comprised alliance is “by the very least” a “mammoth campaign” to suppress First Amendment free speech rights.

Facebook recently reported that it has 2.9 billion users, which is nearly 40 percent of the world population.

Dr. Pierre Kory told The Epoch Times that he believes Facebook has potentially placed itself in the legal role of “state actor” and could even be held liable for vaccine-related injuries by promoting the COVID-19 vaccines. 

His group’s Facebook page remains active. It includes a video posted March 3 of his appearance on the new webisode The Digger. In its segment debut, Kory talks about the rapid recovery he witnessed in COVID-ill patients he treated with Ivermectin.

Nkechi Iheme states in the email that the Alliance’s first activity together will be to launch its vaccine confidence fund. She indicates in her email that Biden staffers can “join a follow-up conversation if desired.”

The alliance was created on the heels of Facebook whistleblower France Haugen’s allegations in October that the social media giant wasn’t doing enough to rid Facebook of disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Haugen also accused Facebook of not doing enough to squelch disinformation from climate change deniers.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks to meetings for technology regulations and social media issues on September 19, 2019, in Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

It trailed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress that social media platforms should not be held liable if they demonstrated they are employing “best practices” to find the spread of alleged misinformation or what he called “harmful content.”

Other members of the alliance identified by the Facebook email include The Bay Area Global Health Alliance.

Mary Pittman, chairman of The Bay Area Global Health Alliance, is also chief executive officer and president of the Public Health Institute (PHI). Last month, it issued a press release announcing it had been awarded $10 million from the HHS for its “equity work” for promoting the COVID vaccine.

In addition to its partnership with the Pfizer-supported CDC Foundation, Facebook’s fact-checking arm also has ties to Pfizer. 

One of the lead trainers of Facebook’s “Meta Journalism Project,” specifically charged with capturing alleged disinformation about the COVID vaccine, is the International Center For Journalists (ICFJ), which also lists Pfizer among its corporate sponsors. 

Jan Jekielek contributed to this report.

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