A viral message propagates a false conspiracy theory suggesting a nexus between Wuhan lab and major global pharmaceutical companies that caused in the Covid-19 pandemic.
The message ultimately puts forward a convoluted claim that the coronavirus was created in China with the help of vaccine makers with the intension to make profits.
Fact Crescendo received many fact-check requests about this message on our WhatsApp Factline.
WHAT’S THE CLAIM?
We will fact-check all the claims made in this message one by one.
Claim 1 – Chinese biological laboratory in Wuhan is owned by GlaxoSmithKline
The official name of this biological laboratory is the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It was established in 1958. It is a largely state-funded lab, which is under the control of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), a part of the Government of China.
In a letter published in Nature magazine in 2019, it is mentioned that “CAS has never sought or achieved financial autonomy. Over the past 40 years, half of its income has come directly from central-government investment. CAS could not develop without the funding and support of the central government.”
This clarifies that a private foreign company like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) does not own or control Wuhan Lab.
Claim 2 – GlaxoSmithKline owns Pfizer
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a British pharmaceutical company. Pfizer is an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation.
Pfizer is 69% owned by institutional shareholders. Among them, The Vanguard Group owns the highest shares (7.67%). CNN Money has published the list of top 10 owners of Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline does not feature on the list of Pfizer shareholders.
In 2018, Pfizer and GSK entered into a joint venture to create a premier global consumer healthcare company. However, that partnership ended in 2019. The statement of closure of the partnership states, “GSK intends to separate the joint venture as an independent company via a demerger of its equity interest to its shareholders.”
They don’t own or control each other in any way or means. They are separate and independent companies. Hence, the claim of GlaxoSmithKline owning Pfizer is false.
Claim 3 – Coronavirus was started in the biological laboratory in Wuhan
Last year, a group of 27 prominent public health scientists have released a statement denying the conspiracy theories about the origin of coronavirus.
“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” reads the statement published in the Lancet.
“Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus,” it further adds.
Even U.S. intelligence agencies and scientists have not found any evidence to support these rumors.
Claim – 4 The biological laboratory in Wuhan was funded by Dr. Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci is the Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). It is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency of the US health department.
According to a report, NIH had approved a grant of $3.4 million in 2014 to the US company EcoHealth Alliance to study the risk of the future emergence of coronaviruses from bats.
Wuhan Institute of Virology was a collaborator on this project. Because of this, EcoHealth distributed $600,000 of that grant to Wuhan lab.
Thus, it is misleading to suggest Dr. Fauci funded Wuhan lab.
Claim 5 – GlaxoSmithKline and Open Foundation Company (Soros Foundation) are managed by Black Rock finances
BlackRock is an American multinational investment management corporation. It has investments and shares in various companies all over the world.
According to Reuters’ data, BlackRock owns 7.5% shares of GSK. Since GSK has 1553 institutional owners and shareholders, it is not accurate to claim GSK is managed by BlackRock.
Billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Foundations have been a target of conspiracy theorists since the emergence of coronavirus. Open Society Foundation is the world’s largest private funder of charities and NGOs.
There is no evidence available of any possible connection between BlackRock and Soros’ Open Society Foundations.
Claim 6 – Soros Foundation serves the French AXA
Reuters says, there is no evidence of a connection between Open Society Foundations and AXA.
Although, Soros Fund Management owns around 450,000 shares of AXA Equitable Holdings. It is a US-based company partially owned by French AXA.
Claim 7 – Soros owns the German company Winterthur
Winterthur is a Swiss insurance company. It was not Soros but French AXA owns Winterthur group. AXA had acquired Winterthur in 2006.
Thus, this claim is false.
Claim 8 – Winterthur built the Chinese laboratory in Wuhan
As mentioned above, Winterthur is a general insurance company. It is not in the construction business.
Also, the Wuhan lab was started and operated by the Government of China.
Hence, this is claim is false.
Claim 9 – Vanguard is a shareholder of Black Rock
In addition to that, Vanguard is a major shareholder in Pfizer and Microsoft too.
Claim 10 – Black Rock is a major shareholder of Microsoft, the property of Bill Gates
According to CNN Money data, BlackRock owns a 4.56% stake in Microsoft, making it the second largest shareholder behind the Vanguard group (7.71%).
It is not accurate to claim Microsoft as Bill Gates’ property. He had stepped down from the board of the company in 2020. Though Gates had co-founded the company, he only owns 1.36% of shares.
According to Investopedia, the top three individual insider shareholders of Microsoft are CEO Satya Nadella, Bradford L. Smith and Jean-Philippe Courtois.
Claim 11 – Bill Gates is a shareholder of Pfizer
Bill Gates and his philanthropic venture Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation do not have any share in Pfizer.
Although, the foundation has granted funds to Pfizer to support the development of a Group B streptococcus (GBS) vaccine for developing country access in 2016.
Claim 12 – Bill Gates is currently the first sponsor of WHO
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the second-largest funder of the World Health Organization. The foundation provided 10.8 % of the WHO’s funds in 2018-19.
The United States is the biggest donor to WHO.
Thus, it can be concluded that the message is loaded with unverified and baseless claims and false links. We urge our readers not to fall for such rumors and conspiracy theories.
Title:Coronavirus Conspiracy: No Connection between GlaxoSmithKline and Wuhan LabFact Check By: Fact Crescendo Team