No link between Covid-19 vaccines and new HIV strain

10 February 2022
What was claimed

There is a link between Covid-19 vaccines and a new strain of HIV identified in the Netherlands.

Our verdict

There is no evidence for this. The HIV strain identified is thought to have arisen around 30 years ago.

A post on Facebook draws a link between high Covid-19 vaccination rates in the Netherlands and the discovery of a new, more virulent HIV variant in the country.

The post reads “Congratulations, you VAIDS’ed yourself”. The term “vaids” appears to be short for “vaccine AIDS”, suggesting people who receive the vaccine will contract AIDS.

This is a form of misinformation that has been going around in various guises for a while. Common false claims include the idea that the Covid vaccines contain HIV itself, or that Covid-19 vaccines reduce someone’s immune response in a manner similar to AIDS (though in reality AIDS itself can only be caused by the HIV virus).

The University of Oxford, which led the study which identified this new HIV variant (known as “virulent subtype B” or “VB”), said: “By analysing the patterns of genetic variation among the samples, the researchers estimate that the VB variant first arose during the late 1980s and 1990s in the Netherlands.”

This obviously predates the emergence of Covid-19 or vaccines against Covid-19. 

The research didn’t estimate how prevalent the HIV variant has been since the start of the Covid-19 vaccine roll out. However, the University of Oxford said the spread of the variant has been “declining since around 2010.” 

A senior author of the research, Professor Cristopher Fraser, told Reuters: “There is absolutely no basis to the claim of an association between COVID, or COVID vaccination, and the severity of infection in those infected with the VB variant of HIV”.

Photo courtesy of CDC/ C. Goldsmith, P. Feorino, E. L. Palmer, W. R. McManus

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