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COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause immunodeficiency syndrome

December 8, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: COVID-19 vaccines are causing a new illness called “VAIDS,” short for vaccine acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. VAIDS isn’t a real condition, nor do COVID-19 vaccines cause a syndrome matching this description, an immunotherapy expert confirmed to The Associated Press.

THE FACTS: Doctors and activists with a history of spreading anti-vaccine misinformation are spreading fear about COVID-19 vaccines by falsely claiming the shots cause a new medical condition called vaccine acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Widely circulating Twitter and Reddit posts falsely identified VAIDS as an emerging condition that is “similar to AIDS but caused by the C19 jabs.” Some social media users kept their posts vague, asking, “What is VAIDS?” Meanwhile, Google searches for the term skyrocketed.

A blogger identified only as “Jack” also claimed to have coined the term, writing on Nov. 23 that “sometimes, a situation calls for the creation of a brand new term,” and defining it as the “gradual destruction of the human immune system by vaccines.”

In reality, there’s no such thing as VAIDS, and research shows the available COVID-19 vaccines provide recipients with increased protection against the coronavirus.

“AIDS is a generalized body-wide compromise of a specific subset of immune cells (mostly CD4+ lymphocytes) caused specifically by infection with the HIV-1 virus,” said Dr. Grant McFadden, director of the Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy at Arizona State University. “There is no vaccine-induced counterpart of AIDS.”

Given that billions of people around the world have already been vaccinated against COVID-19, McFadden said, “if such a thing as VAIDS existed, we would have detected it by now.”

A search across legitimate biomedical literature found no mention of vaccine acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others shows the COVID-19 vaccines boost the immune response. The mRNA vaccines work by training the immune system to recognize the spike protein on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19, allowing it to generate an immune response, experts say.

The AP has debunked other false claims about how COVID-19 vaccines affect the immune system, including claims that they destroy the body’s T cells, that they cause a harmful phenomenon called antibody-dependent enhancement and that they lead to autoimmune disease.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.