No evidence rise in monkeypox cases is linked to Covid-19 vaccine

31 May 2022
What was claimed

Recent monkeypox cases are in fact herpes infections.

Our verdict

There is no evidence for this. All monkeypox cases in the UK have been confirmed by a laboratory test.

What was claimed

Covid-19 vaccines cause a form of AIDS which is causing people to exhibit symptomatic herpes.

Our verdict

There is no evidence Covid-19 vaccines cause autoimmune disorders. However, there is some evidence, albeit unclear, that vaccines may trigger reactivation of existing shingles infections, which is caused by a virus from the herpes viral family.

An article published by The Exposé, a blog which regularly publishes misinformation about Covid-19, and shared on Facebook has claimed that official government reports suggest recent reports of monkeypox are not genuine. 

It claims these infections are in fact a cover-up spread by public authorities to explain away side effects from Covid-19 vaccines, causing recipients to contract a form of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Monkeypox is a rare infection that is mainly found in parts of west and central Africa. It can be transmitted between animals, between humans and between animals and humans. In recent weeks there has been an increase in cases reported in at least 23 countries across Europe, North America and Australia, with 179 cases confirmed in the UK as of 29 May. The NHS says that the risk of catching monkeypox, which is transmitted through close contact with someone who has the disease, in the UK is low.

There is no evidence that recent cases of monkeypox are actually misdiagnosed side effects of Covid-19 vaccines. There’s also no evidence the Covid-19 vaccines cause people to contract AIDS. There is some evidence that vaccines may reactivate existing herpes zoster (shingles) infections, though the data is unclear and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said there is no evidence of a causal relationship between shingles and the vaccine. 

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Claims that people diagnosed with monkeypox have actually contracted different diseases are not based in fact

The Exposé’s article suggests that the recent increase in monkeypox cases in Europe, North America and Australia is a cover for a rising number of cases of diseases with similar symptoms.

It is true that monkeypox has symptoms also seen in other more common diseases, like herpes, shingles and chickenpox. Most notably, these diseases can all cause rashes which are similar in appearance. 

However, The Exposé fails to mention that monkeypox is not being diagnosed through clinical observation alone, but through laboratory testing. 

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed to Full Fact that all monkeypox cases reported by the UK have been confirmed with a PCR test. PCR tests are also being offered to anyone with a rash similar to that seen in monkeypox patients, meaning it is highly unlikely that people are being misdiagnosed as having the disease.

No clear link between Covid-19 vaccines and conditions similar to monkeypox

The article goes on to claim that the Covid-19 vaccines have led to significant increases in cases of “herpes-related infections.”

As evidence, the article cites data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). VAERS is a database which allows anyone to report an adverse event—that is, any unexpected medical event that occurs following vaccination.

This isn’t a reliable data source for assessing possible links between the vaccine and certain conditions. As we’ve explained before, “adverse events” cover any unexpected medical occurrence following vaccination, but are not the same as “side effects,” meaning that adverse events reported using VAERS are not necessarily linked to or caused by a vaccine.

A disclaimer on the VAERS website clearly states: “VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness.”

The article compares the number of VAERS reports of “herpes-related” adverse events (though this includes some adverse events not necessarily related to herpes) following vaccination against Covid-19 with the number of reports following all vaccinations between 2008 and 2020. 

It uses this data to suggest that the Covid-19 vaccines have resulted in more cases of “herpes-related infections” than all vaccines during the previous 12 year period.

While it’s true that more adverse events like shingles and herpes have been reported using VAERS following the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines than for all vaccines administered between 2008 and 2020, this does not mean that the vaccines are responsible for an increase in “herpes-related infections.”

However, while VAERS data isn’t particularly useful in this regard, there is some other evidence that vaccination may trigger reactivation of an existing herpes zoster (shingles) infection, with a possibly increased risk for those who are already immunocompromised.

But the evidence isn’t particularly clear. A spokesperson for the MHRA told Full Fact: “The MHRA has sought independent expert advice from the Commission on Human Medicines’ COVID-19 Vaccine Benefit-Risk Expert Working Group following a review of the currently available data describing herpes zoster (shingles) occurring after COVID-19 vaccination in adults and children in the UK.

“The Expert Working Group advised that reporting rates for herpes zoster following COVID-19 vaccination were not greater than with herpes zoster occurring naturally in the general population and that overall, the evidence did not indicate a causal relationship between COVID-19 vaccination and herpes zoster in adults or children.” 

The MHRA has also confirmed to Full Fact there is no evidence to date of a causal relationship between monkeypox and the Covid-19 vaccines.

Covid-19 vaccines do not cause AIDS

The Exposé has repeatedly used data comparing Covid-19 case rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated people to falsely claim that Covid-19 vaccines cause a form of AIDS.

This latest article uses data from the UKHSA’s vaccine weekly surveillance reports showing case rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated people between January and March 2022 to calculate its estimates of vaccine effectiveness week by week.

It claims that the data shows that vaccine effectiveness is falling, and even turning negative (meaning vaccinated people are less protected against Covid-19 than unvaccinated people).

It is true that studies have suggested the Covid-19 vaccines lose some effectiveness over time, and that they also appear to be less effective at preventing symptomatic illness against the Omicron variant, which is currently dominant in the UK.

However, there is no evidence that receiving the Covid-19 vaccine reduces your protection against Covid-19, or the performance of your immune system against other diseases.

As we’ve explained before, it’s not appropriate to use the UKHSA data to calculate vaccine effectiveness. Indeed, the UKHSA specifically states: “Comparing case rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated populations should not be used to estimate vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infection.”

In addition, a failure of the immune system to prevent infection against one specific disease does not mean someone has contracted “a new form of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome”. 

AIDS is a late-stage progression of an HIV infection. HIV can only be contracted through direct contact with body fluids from someone who has HIV with a detectable viral load. 

Covid-19 vaccines don’t contain HIV, so they cannot cause AIDS.

Image courtesy of Spencer Davis

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