Internal Moderna Report Tags Elon Musk, Novak Djokovic, and Russell Brand as ‘High Risk’

Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), the Boston-based pharmaceutical company known for its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, has reportedly enlisted the services of former FBI and Secret Service analysts to oversee an internal “disinformation department.” This was revealed by an investigative piece written by independent journalists Lee Fang and Jack Poulson

It’s common practice for brands to engage media monitoring and data firms to get insights on how different publics, including competitors and industry influencers, perceive their products, leaders, endorsers, etc. The revelation isn’t at all surprising, it’s also not surprising that the company, which is seeing its profits crumble as the world moves past Covid-19 and vaccine mandates, is using insights from this department to influence policy. 

Reportedly led by Nikki Rutman, a former FBI analyst with 20 years of experience, the team also keeps tabs and compiles reports on celebrities deemed “high-risk” due to their public criticism of vaccine mandates. Notable figures in this category include tennis star Novak Djokovic, tech magnate Elon Musk, and actor Russell Brand.

The journalists found that one report focused on Djokovic, who, despite being barred from the 2021 and 2022 US Open for refusing the Covid-19 vaccine, won the grand slam tournament in September 2023. The report expressed concern that Djokovic’s victory might bolster anti-vaccine claims, particularly as Moderna sponsored the event.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and owner of X, was also flagged as “high-risk” after Musk questioned the vaccine’s effectiveness in a social media video. The report highlighted Moderna’s apprehension that Musk’s narrative could contribute to the erosion of trust in health authorities.

Russell Brand, the actor currently under investigation for sexual abuse allegations, and who emerged as an alt-right champion in the last few years, was also the subject of another report. The document cited his anti-vaccine beliefs expressed on his popular podcast, including criticism of pharmaceutical companies’ profits during the pandemic. The report noted that Brand’s views are embraced in anti-vaccine spaces, where he is seen as a “truth-teller and threat to authority.”

In addition to the internal efforts, Moderna has reportedly enlisted Talkwalker, a tech firm utilizing artificial intelligence software named “Blue Silk,” to monitor vaccine-related content across approximately 150 million websites. 

These efforts, while again not unexpected, indicate the pharma firm’s commitment to regain a semblance of the level of profits it had during the pandemic. It has not been a great year for Moderna — it has lost over 55% of its value since the beginning of the year, and very recently lost a European patent dispute against rival BioNTech and its partner Pfizer.

Information for this story was found via Lee Fang, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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