VERA FILES FACT CHECK: COVID-19 vaccines DO NOT cause ‘stronger infection’, variants

It is not true that antibodies from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines are producing stronger infection among patients. This false claim from a video interview of Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier has been making the rounds on social media recently.

“We haven’t observed anyone that has been given the vaccine and yet produced more symptoms,” said Rontgene Solante, infectious disease specialist and a member of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Vaccine Expert Panel in a May 21 interview.

There are reports, however, of some vaccine recipients who still developed mild cases of COVID-19 which is “primarily because [the] vaccine is not 100% effective.”

In a March 1 article on the effect of COVID-19 vaccines on variants, the World Health Organization (WHO) also said: “The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in development or have been approved are expected to provide at least some protection against new virus variants because these vaccines elicit a broad immune response involving a range of antibodies and cells.”

Amid the current health crisis, Solante emphasized that the benefits of getting a vaccine still outweigh the risks.

“Even if you get [C]OVID, at least you will not develop the more severe symptoms. You may still get the infection but it will be mild, rather than not getting the vaccine,” he said.

Developing antibodies is a normal reaction after getting vaccinated or recovering from a previous infection.

According to a team of health experts from global technology nonprofit Meedan, while antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) ー or when the immune system overreacts the next time it gets exposed to the disease ー has been observed in the past with other viruses, “so far there have been no verified reports” of such a condition occurring as a result of COVID-19 vaccines.

Most COVID-19 jabs, in fact, target the spike protein in the virus “in a defined way” that is “low risk.”

The May 22 post made by netizen KC Bee also carried a wrong claim that variants, or changes in the genetic material of the virus, are a result of vaccination.

“All viruses – including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 – evolve over time,” according to the WHO. “When a virus replicates or makes copies of itself, it sometimes changes a little bit, which is normal for a virus.”

“The only way to prevent further mutation [is] we need to get vaccinated. The longer the virus stays in the community and more people will be infected, the higher is the chance that there will be more mutations and more new variants of concern,” Solante told VERA Files Fact Check.

(See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: The ‘new’ coronavirus strain, explained and VERA FILES FACT SHEET: How the Philippines is detecting new SARS-CoV-2 variants)

Similar posts with the said video have also been debunked by fact-checking organizations around the world, including Reuters and India’s The Quint.

Montagnier, who is known for his work on the HIV virus, also said these false claims in a May 13 interview.

A Google search of the RAIR Foundation USA, whose logo appears in the FB video, showed a May 18 article saying that the interview was conducted by Pierre Barnérias, who was also the director of the conspiracy documentary film about the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the same article, the original version of Montagnier’s interview was posted on the news video site Odysee by a user named @ludovicgarcia7500, who wrote in French: “Professor Luc Montagnier …… The VARIANTS come from vaccinations!”

Based on social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle, the false video has a potential reach of over 560,000 online users. Several copies of the video with at least 300,000 views are also on Twitter.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)