Moderna keeps tabs on ‘high-risk’ anti-vaccine celebs like Novak Djokovic

Moderna keeps tabs on ‘high-risk’ anti-vaccine celebs like Novak Djokovic

Moderna has hired a former FBI agent to compile internal company reports about “high-risk” celebrities — including tennis star Novak Djokovic, tech mogul Elon Musk and actor Russell Brand — who have been publicly critical of vaccine mandates, according to a report.

The Boston-based pharmaceutical company, which marketed one of the first mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 that was distributed to tens of millions of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, is said to be employing a team of former law enforcement officials who make up a “disinformation department” that keeps track of anti-vaccine sentiment.

News of the department’s existence and its reports was first revealed by independent journalist Lee Fang and Jack Poulson.

The department commissioned one report which was titled “Djokovic Crowned Anti-vaccine Hero after US Open Win,” according to Fang and Poulson.

Djokovic, the Serbian tennis legend who holds the all-time record for Grand Slam title victories, was not allowed to participate in the 2021 and 2022 US Open tournaments due to his refusal to get the COVID vaccine.

Moderna, the pharmaceutical company, has reportedly been keeping tabs on statements made by celebrities who are critical of vaccine mandates. REUTERS

He won the grand slam tournament that was held this past September at Flushing Meadows — his 24th overall.

“The optics of Djokovic, whose vaccine opposition barred him from competing in the 2022 US Open, returning to and winning the Moderna-sponsored competition bolsters anti-vaccine claims that vaccines — and mandates — are unnecessary,” read the report.

Moderna was concerned about the fact that “vaccine opponents are celebrating” Djokovic’s win, which was made all the more troublesome due to the fact that people on social media “mockingly point out that Moderna is a US Open sponsor,” according to the report.

The discussion surrounding Djokovic was thus deemed by Moderna to be “high risk,” the report stated.

Musk, the world’s richest person by dint of his status as CEO of Tesla, has also been flagged as “high risk” by Moderna after he posted a video on his social media platform X questioning whether the COVID vaccine was “100% effective.”

Moderna was reportedly unhappy over Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic winning this year’s US Open. AFP via Getty Images

According to the report, Moderna was concerned that Musk was promoting a narrative that pointed to “deception by health authorities and health care providers during the pandemic” which would “lay the groundwork to sow distrust in credible sources on vaccine safety and effectiveness.”

Brand, who is being investigated for allegations of sexual abuse that date back more than a decade, became the subject of an internal Moderna report which cited him for his “anti-vaccine beliefs” during one of his popular podcasts.

The report made mention of a video of Brand criticizing pharmaceutical companies for making “$1,000 of profit every second” during the pandemic.

Moderna is also said to be monitoring comments made by vaccine critic Russell Brand, the actor-comedian and podcast host. AP

Brand’s audience is consuming viewpoints which are “circulated in anti-vaccine spaces where he is viewed as a truth-teller and threat to authority.”

The “disinformation” department is run out of Moderna’s global intelligence division headed by Nikki Rutman, a former FBI analyst who spent 20 years with the bureau, according to Fang and Poulson.

Rutman is reported to be in charge of an effort to monitor mainstream news and internet outlets for vaccine-skeptic information.

Reports that are deemed to be problematic are given color-coded levels ranging from “low risk” to “high risk,” Fang and Poulson reported.

Tech mogul Elon Musk has been deemed “high risk” by Moderna, according to a report. AP

A “low risk” item is usually one worth “monitoring” though they “don’t currently warrant any action” while higher-risk bulletins would prompt “our team [to] notify the appropriate stakeholders with recommendations,” according to the report.

Moderna is also reported to have hired Talkwalker, a tech firm that deploys its “Blue Silk” artificial intelligence software to monitor vaccine-related content across some 150 million websites, Fang and Poulson reported.

The Post has sought comment from Moderna.

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