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French Nobel laureate falsely credited with faux vaccine quote

2021-05-28 17:02:50

The Statement

A Facebook post claims Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier said everyone who received a COVID-19 vaccination would develop a disorder called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) and die within two years.

The May 22 post, shared by a New Zealand account, features a screenshot of a message which reads, “All vaccinated people will die within 2 years.” It attributes the quote to Dr Montagnier and says he “confirmed that there is no chance of survival for people who have received any form of vaccine”.

“There is no hope, and no possible treatment for those who have been vaccinated already. We must be prepared to incinerate the bodies,” the message claims the French virologist said during an interview. “They will all die from antibody dependent enhancement.”

It also lists three links at the bottom of the text: a Wikipedia page for Luc Montagnier, and links on Streamable and 4chan which are now defunct. At the time of writing the post had been viewed more than 24,000 times and generated more than 380 shares. Other versions of the post have also been shared in Australia, Italy, Hong Kong, Kenya – and by British pop band Right Said Fred.

A Facebook post
 A post claims virologist Luc Montagnier said people who take any COVID vaccine won’t survive. 

The Analysis

French virologist Luc Montagnier has previously made some questionable medical claims, however there is no evidence of him saying all COVID-19 vaccinated people will die within two years.

Dr Montagnier received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008 for discovering the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. He has since become a controversial figure for pushing various fringe medical theories, while he has also been denounced by sections of the wider academic fraternity for his dubious claims about AIDS transmission.

One of the links included in the post is an excerpt of an interview with Dr Montagnier for a French conspiracy documentary on the country’s coronavirus response. The film contains false claims that have previously been debunked by fact checkers.

The extended video of Dr Montagnier’s interview in French runs for more than 10 minutes, while the excerpt featuring English subtitles was published by US activist organisation RAIR, which has been described as an anti-Muslim group.

AAP FactCheck confirmed via interpreters that Dr Montagnier did not make the statements about all vaccinated people dying within two years at any point in the interview, nor did he say anything about preparing bodies for cremation.

The statements do not appear in the English subtitles of the shorter RAIR video. Following the widespread circulation of the falsely attributed quotes, RAIR published an article stating, “Luc Montagnier Did NOT Say Vaccine Would Kill People in Two Years.” The piece said it was an “outright misrepresentation of Prof. Montagnier’s statement”.

There is no evidence in media reports from reputable news outlets attributing the purported quotes to Dr Montagnier. AAP FactCheck made several attempts to contact Dr Montagnier, including via institutions to which he is affiliated, but did not receive a response.

In the interview snippet published by RAIR, Dr Montagnier did make a number of false or unproven claims, including the COVID-19 vaccines caused antibody-dependent enhancement – or ADE – (1min 52sec), that countries with higher rates of vaccination experienced more COVID-19 deaths (1min 03 sec) and the vaccine caused new vaccine-resistant variants (1min 24sec).

ADE is a phenomenon in which people who become reinfected with a slightly different version of a virus after developing antibodies to the initial virus experience more severe reactions to the pathogen.

Adam Wheatley, a senior research fellow, and Wen Shi Lee, a postdoctoral researcher at the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity wrote an article last year in Nature Microbiology examining the possibility of COVID-19 vaccines causing ADE.

The article concluded clinical data had “not yet fully established a role for ADE in human COVID-19 pathology” and recommended “ongoing animal and human clinical studies to provide important insights into the mechanisms of ADE in COVID-19”.

The researchers told AAP FactCheck that based on vaccine effectiveness data from Israel (Pfizer) and UK (AstraZeneca and Pfizer), there is currently no evidence to suggest that existing COVID-19 vaccines cause ADE.

“The level of vaccine effectiveness against infection, symptomatic illness, hospitalisation, severe disease and death increases dramatically after two doses of the vaccine, arguing against antibodies playing a detrimental role in COVID-19 disease progression,” Dr Wheatley and Dr Lee said in an email.

They said the “theoretical risk” of ADE was taken into consideration during the development of COVID-19 vaccines based on researchers’ prior experience with failed vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Dengue fever. However, the different traits of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, and most of its vaccines meant ADE was “very unlikely … with no evidence to date from the field”, they added.

An Our World in Data chart comparing the rate of daily new COVID-19 deaths to the share of people who received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines, shows nations with high vaccination rates such as Israel and the United Kingdom had experienced significant reductions in deaths due to the virus, contradicting Dr Montagnier’s claims.

Public Health England published a study in March which showed the number of observed deaths among people aged 60 and over began declining as vaccination rates improved. The study found 10,400 deaths among this cohort had been averted by the end of March 2021 as a result of vaccinations.

Dr Montagnier also suggests in the interview that COVID-19 vaccines are the cause of new variants which become resistant to the vaccines.

Associate professor Menno van Zelm, a researcher at Monash University’s Department of Immunology, told AAP FactCheck that COVID-19 variants arise through natural processes of mutation and natural selection, not due to vaccines.

“The main driver of these variants is the high case number around the world. With many infected individuals that produce high virus copy numbers, the risk of mutations that increase spread and/or evade immune responses becomes high,” he said in an email.

While some variants of the virus such as the South African strain are more resistant to the vaccines than others, Dr Wheatley and Dr Lee said this is not catastrophic as the current COVID-19 vaccines will still likely stop people infected with variants from getting seriously ill and requiring hospitalisation.

Posts using the purported Dr Montagnier quotes have been debunked here, here, here and here.

Dr Luc Montagnier
Dr Luc Montagnier is a world-renowned virologist who won the Nobel prize in 2008 for discovering HIV.

The Verdict

There is no credible evidence French Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier said everyone who received a COVID-19 vaccine will die within two years from antibody-dependent enhancement. Videos cited as including the statement do not feature the claim.

In addition, Dr Montagnier’s suggestions in an interview that COVID-19 vaccines cause antibody-dependent enhancement and the vaccines are the cause of new vaccine-resistant variants are false or unproven, immunologists and microbiologists told AAP FactCheck. He also falsely states that countries with higher vaccination rates experienced more deaths following vaccination.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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