FACT CHECK: No, COVID-19 Vaccines Do Not Cause Recipients To Develop HIV

Ryan King | Contributor

A post shared on Facebook claims COVID-19 vaccines can cause HIV to develop due to fragments of HIV being used in the vaccine.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause recipients to develop HIV. Experts in microbiology and immunology refute the claim.

Fact Check:

A post on Facebook makes several false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, including stating that the vaccines contain fragments of proteins in HIV and that they can cause recipients to develop HIV.

“Did you know that the spiked proteins that are in the [vaccine] are fragments of HIV,” the Facebook post reads. “I bet they hoped that HIV will manifest months/years after the vaccine has been administered so they can claim there is no association.” (RELATED: Does Coronavirus Have HIV Proteins That Indicate It Was Genetically Modified?)

There is, however, no truth to the claim. Dr. Satya Dandekar, the chairperson for the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, Davis, confirmed in an email to Check Your Fact that the claim is inaccurate.

“COVID-19 vaccine (that is being given to people currently) does not contain HIV or any parts of HIV,” Dandekar said. “Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a very different virus from HIV. The Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is completely different from HIV envelope glycoprotein.”

Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agreed, saying the claim was a “far-fetched notion.”

“The vaccine contains mRNA, it does not contain immunizing proteins,” Schaffner said. “Those immunizing proteins are created in the human body. We just get the message. mRNA stands for messenger RNA, so we just get the genetic information that says ‘produce the spike protein,’ and then our own immune system responds to this foreign spike protein that’s produced and that’s the vaccine.”

Schaffner further explained that if COVID-19 vaccines contained HIV proteins, there would have been a massive spike in positive HIV tests, but no such spike has been recorded. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not published any press releases that suggest there has been a recent spike in HIV associated with the COVID-19 vaccine. Nor did a wider internet search turn up any instances of a COVID-19 vaccine causing HIV. (RELATED: Viral Post Claims The FDA Did Not Approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine)

There was an instance in Australia in December where a locally developed COVID-19 vaccine was cancelled after it produced false-positive HIV tests during the trial phase, according to The New York Times. A fragment of a protein found in HIV was used to stabilize the vaccine, and produced antibodies that resulted in a positive HIV test, Reuters reported. Recipients of the Australian vaccine did not actually contract HIV, according to BBC News.

The Facebook post went on to claim that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are not allowed to donate plasma. This is also untrue. The American Red Cross says that individuals who received a COVID-19 vaccine and are otherwise eligible can donate plasma.

Ryan King