Potential Covid-19 vaccine which used HIV protein was never rolled out

16 February 2022
What was claimed

The BBC said there is HIV in the Covid-19 vaccines.

Our verdict

The BBC was talking about a vaccine which was trialled but never rolled out, which contained a small piece of HIV protein. None of the Covid-19 vaccines in use contain HIV material.

Content shared on Facebook claims the BBC has said that HIV is used to make the Covid-19 vaccines.

This isn’t true, but there is a kernel of truth behind the claim.

In June 2021, the BBC released a documentary telling the stories of different research teams’ efforts to manufacture a vaccine against Covid-19.

In the programme, Professor Keith Chappell from the University of Queensland in Australia talks about the vaccine his team had developed, which used a spike protein similar to those found on the surface of the Covid-19 virus.

The spike protein had been stabilised with a small piece of protein from HIV, which was intended to hold the spike protein in its original form, to induce a stronger immune response.

However, some people who received trial doses returned positive HIV test results because they had developed antibodies against HIV. These were false positives as the participants didn’t actually have an HIV infection. 

Subsequently the Queensland efforts to develop a vaccine were abandoned due to this issue. 

All this is explained in the BBC documentary. However, some claims shared on social media only clip the segment where Professor Chappell talks about developing the vaccine using an HIV protein, not the later segments where it is explained the vaccine was abandoned. 

The vaccine was never rolled out beyond the original trial participants, and the vaccines currently in use in the UK do not contain any material from HIV

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

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