Contrary to claims circulating online, there is no such thing as a “vaccine-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome” or “VAIDS”, according to experts consulted by Reuters.
The alleged syndrome has been mentioned across social media posts and online articles since at least December 2021. Examples of recent posts referring to it can be seen ( here ), ( here ), ( here ).
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or “AIDS” is a chronic condition that interferes with the body’s ability to fight infection and disease ( here. ) It is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) ( here ).
Claims that there are cases of AIDS caused by vaccination, or “VAIDS” as online users claim, however, are unfounded.
“There is no phenomenon that I know of ‘Vaccine-induced immunodeficiency syndrome.’ It is not a real syndrome,” Donna Farber, chief of the Division of Surgical Sciences and Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University, told Reuters via email.
Likewise, Stephen Gluckman, MD, a professor of Infectious Diseases in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the medical director of Penn Global Medicine, told Reuters “VAIDS” is “absolutely not” a real condition.
Furthermore, Gluckman said there is no evidence of immunodeficiency being related to COVID-19 vaccines.
Farber explained why vaccines do not cause immunodeficiency. “They don’t deplete any immune cells,” she said, on the contrary, “they stimulate immune cells to be activated, divide and produce molecules like antibodies and soluble factors to recognize a pathogen and rid the body of it.”
As countries like Israel ( here ) started offering a fourth COVID-19 dose, questions arose about how effective this strategy is ( here ).
“Successive vaccination is not likely to deplete the immune response to the virus. However, we should still do more research to see whether yearly or semi-yearly boosting is going to add more protection and if so, what that protection will look like (i.e., protection from disease, transmission, death),” Farber said.
Addressing the claim, Meedan Health Desk said that "reduced effectiveness of a vaccine does not mean that it is causing people immunodeficiency disorders. Millions of people have been vaccinated and the vaccines are continuously monitored for their effectiveness. So far, there is no evidence to prove this claim." ( here )
Other experts also told DW ( here ) there is no science to back up the idea that frequent boosters could have a negative impact on the immune response to COVID-19.
Reuters has previously addressed other false claims on COVID-19 vaccination harming the immune system ( here ), ( here ), ( here ).
“There is no truth at all that vaccines weaken the immune system and that this causes death. This suggestion goes against every scientific principle of vaccination,” a spokesperson for the University of Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine team told Reuters in December 2021.
On Dec. 6, America’s Frontline Doctors, an organization that has previously been criticized for sharing misinformation ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( www.bbc.com/news/53559938 ), ( here ) published an article entitled “Vaccine Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (VAIDS): 'We should anticipate seeing this immune erosion more widely'”. ( here )
To support the alleged existent “phenomena” the article referred to a study (then a pre-print) ( here ), now published in The Lancet ( here ).
The paper looked into the protection provided by COVID-19 vaccines over time, not that vaccine-acquired immunodeficiency.
Speaking to Reuters, Peter Nordstrom, from the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation in the Unit of Geriatric Medicine at Umeå University and one of the authors of the study, dismissed the claims made about their research and confirmed the article misrepresented the study. “No. Our study (shows) that protection against more severe disease is sustained, which is in sharp contrast to any claims that our results would support any claims that VAIDS exists.”
False. Experts consulted by Reuters said there is no such thing as a “vaccine-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome” or “VAIDS,” as claimed online, and COVID-19 vaccination does not hurt the immune system.
(Update Jan. 14, 2022: Including quote by Meedan Health Desk in paragraph 11)
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.