Google searches for the term VAIDS, "vaccine acquired immunodeficiency syndrome," have skyrocketed in recent weeks. According to Google Trends, which tracks search terms, Texas hasn't been too interested in VAIDS compared with other states, though most of the Texas searches about VAIDS in December came from the Dallas Fort-Worth area.
VAIDS isn’t a real thing, but posts about the made-up syndrome have been spreading in online articles and on social media. This isn’t exclusive to the more fringe platforms like Telegram or Gab. Posts about VAIDS can be found all over TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. (We wish all the posts were about how stupid this is, but …)
The posts often claim there’s a new condition going around that’s like AIDS, but it’s caused by the jab. People who get the jab can get VAIDS, posters have inaccurately claimed. Then, if an unvaccinated person has sex with the VAIDS carrier, they can get VAIDS, according to the posters.
This is nonsense. We hope you knew that, but just in case, here's an actual doctor to tell you:
“AIDS is a generalized body-wide compromise of a specific subset of immune cells (mostly CD4+ lymphocytes) caused specifically by infection with the HIV-1 virus,” Dr. Grant McFadden, director of the Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy at Arizona State University told The Associated Press. “There is no vaccine-induced counterpart of AIDS.”
In the hands of just a few regular social media users, a claim like this might not have gained much traction. But Jim and Ron Watkins, two kings of misinformation, have gotten their hands on VAIDS.
He continued: “Ron and Jim Watkins are pushing it hard, in case you need further proof that ‘VAIDS’ is total garbage.”
The Watkinses were the owners and administrators of an online site where the QAnon conspiracy theory was allowed to flourish. There, an anonymous user claiming to be a high-level government official with “Q clearance” would post about a secret war former President Donald Trump was waging against a cabal of pedophiles that include Hollywood stars and Democratic politicians.
HBO’s documentary series Q: Into the Storm heavily implied that Jim and Ron Watkins were behind the Q posts. They have denied this. The two have continued to push misinformation, like COVID-19 conspiracy theories and the idea that the last U.S. presidential election was rigged even as Ron Watkins runs for Congress in Arizona.
In fact, VAIDS is a subject covered in the latest episode of Ron Watkins’ podcast, which is being hosted by major podcast platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Amazon Music. The description of the episode reads, in part, “VAIDS, safety of intimate contact with vaccinated partners, and what you can do if you took the vaccine.”
I'm not screengrabbing it, because it's repellent disinfo, but major conspiracy influencers are claiming that a "vaccine acquired immune deficiency syndrome" called VAIDS can be passed through sexual contact to unvaccinated people and is the real pandemic. Really sick stuff.— Mike Rothschild (@rothschildmd) December 27, 2021
Rothschild, who wrote a book about QAnon called THE STORM IS UPON US, told the Observer, “I definitely think the idea could catch on, given the sheer amount of conspiracy nonsense that continues to swirl around the COVID vaccine.”
Several online articles have also spread the debunked claim.
One headline from early December read, “Vaccine Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (VAIDS): ‘We should anticipate seeing this immune erosion more widely.'”
These articles cite a study from the medical journal The Lancet. This research hasn’t been formally reviewed by other experts yet, but it found that the COVID-19 vaccine's effect weakens over time. AFP, a French news agency that fact-checked the VAIDS claims, spoke to the study’s author, Peter Nordstrom.
Nordstrom, a physician in the Department of Community Medicine in Sweden and a professor at Umea University, said the VAIDS claims are misinformation.
“It is not true that we saw a significant inverse effect of the vaccine in any subgroup,” Nordstrom told AFP. “It is also false for anyone to claim that vaccination results in immune erosion or acquired immune deficiency, if anything like that even exists, based on our data, or any other data I’m aware of.”
Despite people continuing to debunk claims like these, Rothschild said he's not sure they will ever go away. "They tend to just get augmented by other wild claims, but they never fade away entirely," he said.