No relationship between COVID-19 vaccines and AIDS
CLAIM: COVID-19 vaccines are causing a form of AIDS that is not related to HIV, long established as the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause any kind of immune deficiency condition, let alone AIDS, experts say. Nor is there evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines damage the immune system.
THE FACTS: In a video circulating widely on social media, Dr. Robert Malone, a frequent critic of COVID-19 vaccines who once researched mRNA vaccine technology, claims that the vaccines are “damaging T cell responses” and “causing a form of AIDS.”
“When you hear this talk about these vaccines causing AIDS, people think, when they hear AIDS, they hear HIV. No, the vaccines aren’t causing you to be infected with the HIV virus,” said Malone, during a taped interview with a website that focuses on COVID-19. “They are causing a form of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, that’s what AIDS stands for, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, A, I, D, S.”
In the interview, published April 1, Malone claimed that “lots of scientific data” support his claim that the vaccines are damaging T cells, which are key to the body’s immune response, but he cited no evidence. He also suggested without proof that the vaccines are prompting the reactivation of latent viruses, like herpes, claiming that is further proof that COVID-19 vaccines are causing a form of AIDS.
Video from the interview has been shared widely on social media in recent days with claims such as this tweet Tuesday, “Vaccines are causing a form of AIDS - Dr. Robert Malone.”
But the claims are unfounded. As The Associated Press has previously reported, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines damage the immune system or cause AIDS. There is also no evidence that the vaccines are causing a form of AIDS that doesn’t stem from HIV, experts tell the AP.
John Swartzberg, a clinical professor of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an email to the AP that he knows of “no data” showing that mRNA vaccines cause immunodeficiency of any kind, including AIDS.
“What is widely accepted is that vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause short-term immune activation, not deficiency,” Richard E. Chaisson, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for AIDS Research, told the AP in an email.
“Dr. Malone is distorting and misrepresenting data,” he wrote.
The AP has previously reported on false claims that COVID-19 vaccines damage T cells. Research shows the vaccines boost the immune response.
HIV attacks the body’s immune system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is often spread through sexual contact, shared or contaminated needles and infected blood. If untreated, it can lead to AIDS.
Both Chaisson and Swartzberg wrote that the term “AIDS” is strictly used to describe the condition caused by HIV. Chaisson described Malone’s use of the term as “deliberately provocative and irresponsible.”
There are forms of inherited immunodeficiency, such as severe combined immunodeficiency, that result in life-threatening infections, Chaisson noted. But, he said, there is no evidence that these conditions are caused by COVID-19 vaccines.
He also pointed to a September 2021 study published in the journal Vaccine that found no evidence of increased reactivation of latent herpes viruses after vaccination.
Malone did not respond to the AP’s request for comment.
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.