Fact Check: Is Monkeypox a Symptom Of 'Vaccine-Acquired AIDS'?

As cases of monkeypox have slowly grown around the world, some of the same types of wild theories popularized during the pandemic have begun a resurgence.

One of these is the idea that COVID-19 vaccines actually make you more susceptible to illnesses and limits your immune system.

But is there any truth to the idea that COVID-19 vaccines damage the immune system or make you vulnerable to other types of diseases?

Monkeypox hands disease
Close-up of a patient's hands showing lesions from the monkeypox virus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1997. CDC/Mahey et al/Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The Claim

A tweet sent on 21 May, 2022, with more than 12.7k likes, suggested that despite a travel ban which does not permit some visitors into Canada who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, monkeypox has spread inside the country.

This, the tweet suggests, could mean monkeypox is a cover for symptoms of a "vaccine induced autoimmune conditions."

Similar tweets have been sent since.

The Facts

The claims on social media center on the idea that because Canada has recorded monkeypox cases, despite not allowing entry into the country without a COVID-19 vaccination, the symptoms of monkeypox may be related to COVID-19 vaccines.

Unless you qualify as a "fully vaccinated traveller", meaning you have received a full series of a COVID-19 vaccine accepted by the Canadian government at least 14 days before travel, you cannot enter Canada for tourism, a personal or casual visit. There are a full list of other types of restrictions for unvaccinated visitors here.

The condition referred to in the tweet from 21 May, 2022, (and referred to explicitly elsewhere) is vaccine-acquired autoimmune deficiency (i.e. VAIDS), a fictional illness created and spread by misinformation sites during the pandemic.

The VAIDS narrative was based on a misreporting of Covid-19 vaccine efficacy statistics, incorrectly claiming that after an initial boost of protection provided by the vaccines, efficacy would continue to wane until reaching -100% efficacy, effectively meaning that unvaccinated people would have more protection against COVID-19 than vaccinated people.

Proponents of this widely debunked theory equated vaccine efficacy with immune system efficacy, claiming COVID-19 vaccination would degrade the functioning of the immune system and lead to what was subsequently referred to as VAIDS.

However, as was widely stated by fact checkers and analysts at the time, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause a type of AIDS, nor are there any proven links to autoimmune disease. Any link between monkeypox and this fictitious illness are therefore speculative and baseless.

During the current monkeypox outbreak, even though the number of cases has increased, with governments ordering vaccines to combat further increases, the condition is considered to be self-limited (i.e. resolving on its own with or without treatment).

Peter Hotez, a professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology and co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, told CNN in an interview last week that "monkeypox is far, far less transmissible than COVID-19, certainly in its current form—all of those things add up to the fact that it's unlikely we're going to see anything near the level of transmission and the level of cases that we've seen for COVID-19."

Finally, while the tweet appears to refer to COVID-19 vaccinations, another interpretation is that it is in reference to smallpox vaccines, which would also be misleading.

The Canadian government does not recommend the routine immunization of smallpox for its citizens (vaccines which could be used to treat monkeypox), nor does it have such a requirement for foreign visitors. Vaccination for smallpox was largely curtailed across the Western world after the virus was effectively eradicated in the 1970s.

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

This social media posts refer to a widely debunked theory that vaccines cause an auto immune deficiency syndrome called VAIDS. There is no substantive evidence that supports this theory. While governments are taking precautions to protect their citizens from monkeypox, the disease is less transmissible than COVID-19

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK