Vaccine Marketing Alliance


Facebook Called Out for Vaccine Marketing Alliance

By Alice Giordano
March 9, 2022 Updated: March 18, 2022

A health alliance formed by Facebook in June 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,” according to the website of Facebook parent company Meta.

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

In an email sent June 15, 2021, 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 by 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.

Epoch Times Photo
A health care worker prepares a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a community health center in Brasília, Brazil, on 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 that 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, which leads the development of HHS web and social media content 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 “We Can Do This” program. 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’s unclear how The White House responded to the email. Multiple calls made by The Epoch Times to Meta for comment on the alliance were never returned. The White House press office and individual recipients of the Facebook email also didn’t respond to inquiries made by The Epoch Times.

jen psaki
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on Jan. 4, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Amy Tolchinsky, communications 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,” the statement reads.

Tolchinsky also said 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 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 in the email Merck, the WHO, the World Bank, and several vaccine advocacy groups as members of the alliance.

Ethical Considerations

Vaccine scientist Dr. Robert Malone, who was banned in December 2021 by Twitter after raising safety concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, told The Epoch Times that 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 and used to make the experimental COVID-19 vaccine, told The Epoch Times that he doesn’t 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 information about the proven efficacy of alternative treatments such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

“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,” ICAN attorney Aaron Siri told The Epoch Times.

Siri said 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.

Ivermectin tablets packaged for human use. (Natasha Holt/The Epoch Times)

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

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 on March 3 of his appearance on the new webisode of The Digger. In its segment debut, Kory talks about the rapid recovery he witnessed in COVID-ill patients he treated with ivermectin.

Iheme said in the email that the alliance’s first activity together would be to launch its vaccine confidence fund. She noted that Biden staffers could “join a follow-up conversation if desired.”

The alliance was created on the heels of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s allegations in October 2021 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 stop disinformation from climate change deniers.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks to meetings for technology regulations and social media issues on Capitol Hill on Sept. 19, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The accusations followed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress that social media platforms shouldn’t be held liable if they demonstrated that they’re employing the “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 the chief executive officer and president of the Public Health Institute. In February, it issued a press release announcing that it had been awarded $10 million from HHS for its “equity work” for promoting the COVID-19 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-19 vaccines is the International Center for Journalists, which also lists Pfizer among its corporate sponsors. 

Jan Jekielek contributed to this report.

Alice Giordano is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and New England bureau of The New York Times.
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