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Fact Check: Do COVID-19 Vaccines Cause AIDS?
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Fact Check: Do COVID-19 Vaccines Cause AIDS?

No.

A viral article from Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com claims that “millions get AIDS” from COVID-19 vaccines and features an interview with Dr. Elizabeth Eads, a frequent purveyor of vaccine misinformation. She has promoted false vaccine information on Twitter as well as other platforms. She appeared on a podcast in September 2021 to discuss the false claim that the vaccines cause “viral shedding,” a claim we have fact-checked before. 

In the interview, Eads references a Stanford study as evidence for her claim that the COVID vaccines cause “autoimmune and neurodegenerative decline.” She also claims that COVID-19 vaccines are infecting people with HIV. 

We’ll go through some of Eads’ claims more specifically. 

First she says: “The spike protein in the CV19 vaccines that everyone is talking about is called the Lentivirus.”  

Robert Garry, a Tulane University virologist, addressed many of Eads’ false claims in an email interview with The Dispatch Fact Check, calling this point “nonsense.”

Garry explained that “the C19 vaccines contain neither the SARS-Cov-2 Spike itself or mRNA that induces your cells to produce the SARS-coV-2 Spike.” Furthermore, there “are no retroviruses or lentiviruses in any of the C19 vaccines in use.” Some scientists “have suggested using lentivirus vectors to deliver the SARS-Cov2 spike as a vaccine” but “none of the approved vaccines use this approach.” 

For further context, Chris Beyrer, infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, explained to the Dispatch Fact Check via email: “HIV is a lentivirus, that’s the family of slow acting (lenti) viruses it belongs to. The others in the family include Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV, which infects several African monkey species), Equine infectious anemia virus, which infects horses and donkeys, and the Feline infectious leukemia virus, which causes cancer in cats. None of these viruses have spikes on their surface, they have a very specific glycoprotein coat which is part of how they evade the immune system.”

Eads further claims in the article: “The Lenti contains a combination of HIV, types one through three, SRV/1, which is AIDS, MERS and SARS.” Garry, however, points out that this claim is false, noting that it shows “basic ignorance of virology.” He noted that “SRV is a monkey virus – MERS and SARS are diseases caused by coronaviruses.”

Eads then cites a study from Stanford, claiming that: “the best-known Lentivirus is the human immune deficiency pathogen, which causes AIDS. This is why we are seeing autoimmune and neurodegenerative decline after the Covid 19 (Vax) especially the booster. . . . It permanently changes the genome of the cell.” (We were unable to confirm which study Eads is referring to, and she did not respond to our inquiries.)

Again though, Garry notes that Eads is wrong. “No part of HIV is in any of the C19 vaccines,” he said. “Not a bit. I’m also not aware of ANY studies showing ‘autoimmune and neurodegenerative decline’ after C19 vaccination. What we are seeing is unvaccinated people showing up in the hospital and dying of c19 at 20-50 times the rate of vaccinated people. This type of misinformation – pretending to be scientific – is literally killing people.”

Beyrer explained to The Dispatch Fact Check via email: “SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 are all group B coronaviruses and from a totally different family from lentiviruses. They don’t cause immune deficiency, they cause respiratory syndromes and are all indigenous (originally) to bats. The spike protein of these coronaviruses is not in any way a lentivirus particle. It is an important immune target (all of the various COVID-19 vaccines target this spike protein) and is how the virus binds to human cells on the ACE2 antigen site. Again, a totally different receptor is used for HIV to bind to human cells.”

The false claim that “the vaccine permanently changes the genome of the cell” is one we have addressed before too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) addressed this claim on its website clarifying that COVID-19 vaccines neither change nor interact with your DNA in any way: 

[G]enetic material delivered by mRNA vaccines never enters the nucleus of your cells, which is where your DNA is kept.Viral vector COVID-19 vaccines deliver genetic material to the cell nucleus to allow our cells to build protection against COVID-19. However, the vector virus does not have the machinery needed to integrate its genetic material into our DNA, so it cannot alter our DNA. 

It’s also worth mentioning that we’ve fact-checked similar claims about COVID vaccines and HIV before. In addressing the viral claim that COVID-19 vaccines contain HIV, a spokesperson from the CDC told The Dispatch Fact Check: “The COVID-19 vaccines approved and authorized in the United States don’t inject people with HIV.” The spokesperson added: “The exact vaccine ingredients vary by manufacturer. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines also contain messenger RNA (mRNA) and the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine contains a harmless version of a virus unrelated to the virus that causes COVID-19 (not human immunodeficiency viruses).”

Lastly, Eads cites another article, which claims that “official UK Government data strongly suggests the triple vaccinated population are rapidly developing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.” Eads says the report mentioned in that article is yet another example of how the vaccine causes AIDS or immunodeficiency.

 In reality, though, as Garry notes, the study simply shows that “vaccine effectiveness wanes over time.” 

“The older you are the faster it wanes,” he added. “This is not AIDS or immunodeficiency – this is how immunity works – 100% expected- we could hope that it wouldn’t fade as fast, but it does. It’s why we need boosters. It’s why you can get infected with other coronaviruses year after year. Immunity to coronaviruses fades.”

Khaya Himmelman is a fact checker for The Dispatch. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Barnard College.