A man received an immunisation shot (file image)
There is no evidence vaccinations cause severe problems for people's immune systems. Image by Sam Mooy/AAP IMAGES

Fake UK graph, ‘nonsense’ COVID vaccinated claim feature in video

AAP FactCheck February 24, 2022
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

UK government data proves COVID-19 vaccines weaken our immune systems.

OUR VERDICT

False. The claim is based on a fake document; experts say there's no evidence vaccines weaken immunity.

A video on social media claims official UK government data proves COVID-19 vaccines dramatically weaken the body’s immune system.

An Australia-based anti-vaccination activist makes numerous claims about the COVID-19 pandemic and COVID vaccination in an hour-long video posted on Facebook and Instagram.

At one point the activist, called Maria Zee, claims COVID vaccines are leading to a condition she calls “VAIDS”.

“Data is proving the immune systems of those who are double juiced or beyond are severely, severely compromised. Official UK government data now suggests that fully juiced Brits may already be suffering C19 V-induced acquired immunodeficiency syndrome – otherwise known as V-A-I-D-S, AIDS,” she says (video mark 14 min).

Ms Zee then shows a graph she asserts is from “official UK government data on C-19” and reads from it as evidence of her claim.

However, the UK government says the graph is a fake. Experts AAP FactCheck contacted say there’s no evidence vaccines weaken the immune system and the claim is “nonsense”.

Ms Zee has previously been named in a media report as spreading misinformation about COVID-19 deaths in 2021 and been labelled an “anti-vax social media influencer” in another report.

The graph she shows is titled, “Fully Vaccinated Immune System Performance in England against the Unvaccinated Populations Natural Immune System 03 Jan 22 – 30 Jan 22”, purportedly from a “UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance Report – Week 5 – 2022” showing vaccinated Britons’ immune systems have weakened up to “-67.70%”.

Maria Zee hold the graph in a video screenshot
 Maria Zee claims the graph comes from official UK government health data. 

The UK Health Security Agency publishes weekly vaccine surveillance reports, but the agency’s actual Week 5 report has no graph matching Ms Zee’s claimed data or the image she shows in the video.

In an email to AAP FactCheck, the agency confirmed the graph is not from its report. “The table they are using … is fake,” a spokesperson said.

Professor Nigel MacMillan, director of the infectious diseases and immunology program at the Menzies Health Institute in Queensland, told AAP FactCheck the data claims in the video are incorrect.

“The idea that multiple vaccinations with COVID-19 vaccines would impair your overall immune response is a nonsense,” he said in an email.

“If constant immune stimulation was an issue (and we are constantly exposed every day) then humanity would never have evolved. It’s a common anti-vax claim made about every new vaccine that comes along.”

Daryl Cheng, a Melbourne paediatrician and medical lead for the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre who has written frequently on youth and vaccines, also told AAP FactCheck the claim is wrong.

“Vaccines do not overload our immune response,” Dr Cheng said in an email, noting they are created to stimulate the immune system to recognise foreign antigens and develop future protection.

There is no evidence that “VAIDS” exists. Google and social media searches indicate the term as applied to vaccines emerged around October 2021. A search of the US National Library of Medicine for the term finds zero results in the vaccine context.

“VAIDS is not a phenomenon or syndrome that we have observed or has been demonstrated in both clinical trials and also real-world COVID-19 vaccine data,” Dr Cheng said.

He said world bodies were constantly monitoring for adverse effects related to vaccines, including VAED – vaccine-associated enhanced disease.

Prof MacMillan said similar inaccurate claims about vaccines had been made for years and there were pre-COVID studies disproving it in children, who receive “many vaccines in a short time”.

A 2018 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association of 944 children exposed to multiple vaccinations as infants found vaccines don’t weaken a child’s natural immunity.

Moreover, ongoing research is discovering COVID-19 itself may cause immune system problems which can linger for years in the form of “long COVID”.

A 2021 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases found “persistent immune activation” may be associated with long COVID symptoms, while research published in Nature Immunology in January 2022 showed immunological dysfunction persisting for months after an initial COVID-19 infection.

AAP FactCheck recently debunked claims mRNA COVID-19 vaccines cause  damage to children’s organs and has done multiple fact checks on vaccine misinformation.

The existence of VAIDS has also been debunked in fact checks by Reuters, The Associated Press, AFP, PolitiFact and Health Desk.

The Verdict

There is no evidence COVID-19 vaccines weaken people’s immune systems. The graph used in the social media post, claiming to be from a British vaccine report, is fake. Experts AAP FactCheck contacted say the claim vaccination weakens general immunity has no basis in fact and recent scientific studies indicate COVID itself is more likely to cause immune system problems.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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