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Australian vaccine candidate termination sparks false HIV claims
Today’s decision to abandon Australia’s homegrown UQ/CSL Covid-19 vaccine candidate due to false-positive HIV results is leading social media users to falsely suggest that HIV was being injected into trial participants. Scientists who developed the vaccine explained that its signature “molecular clamp” technology, formulated with parts of an HIV protein that cannot lead to an HIV infection or AIDS, generated additional antibodies that led to false positives. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent anti-vaccine figure and nephew of the late US President John F. Kennedy, shared a video misleadingly captioned “COVID vax volunteers test positive for HIV” in an Instagram post with at least 164,000 views. Australia-based anti-vaccine Facebook Page Australians vs. The Agenda and conspiracy theorist Naomi Cook shared a similar false claim, with the latter adding: “Now they reveal the HIV virus was spliced INTO the vaccine??” in a post with nearly 150 shares.
A possible link between an increased risk of contracting HIV and some Covid-19 vaccines was raised by researchers in The Lancet in October. The researchers’ concerns centered on efforts over a decade ago to create an HIV vaccine that used an adenovirus (a modified virus) to transport parts of HIV’s genetic makeup. It reportedly increased some people’s risk of contracting HIV (scientists are unsure why). Some Covid-19 vaccines use the same adenovirus as a vehicle to transport the surface protein gene of SARS-CoV-2, but according to Science: “There’s no evidence that any of those adenoviruses increases the risks of an HIV infection.” The conspiracy theory Page “Block the EU Brexit Fee” shared it on Facebook without this context, sparking comments that referenced the conspiracy theory that Covid-19 vaccines are a route to depopulation. Anti-vaccine Facebook user Morgan C Jonas also shared news about The Lancet article without such context, asking the Australian health minister if he “cared to comment” in a post with at least 400 shares. — FD staff
Misleading claims about Dominion Voting Systems in Georgia
Georgia’s House Governmental Affairs Committee met yesterday to hear complaints about the November election, including several debunked conspiracy theories and a pair of misleading videos about Dominion Voting Systems software that are garnering thousands of shares on social media. In the videos, Coffee County elections supervisor Misty Martin shows how the voting machine software could allow officials to change votes during the ballot adjudication process. While it is technically possible to change votes using the software, the video does not account for the fact that ballot adjudication — the process by which absentee ballots are reviewed because they contain errors or the voter’s intent isn’t clear — is bound in Georgia by a strict bipartisan process typically made up of a three-person panel appointed by Democrats, Republicans and county election supervisors. Nonetheless, one YouTube video featuring Martin’s claims has received over 100,000 views. A tweet from @anonpatriotq citing the video’s claims received at least 1,900 shares. It reads, “The Elections Official is showing how she can change votes and even add votes that weren’t there before. B0MBSHELL!!” The videos can also be found on Red State Nation and a link to a version of the video on Streamable was posted to thedonald.win, but removed from Streamable for violating that site’s terms of service.
Coffee County is the subject of an investigation by Georgia’s Secretary of State’s office after a 51-vote discrepancy emerged in a recount of the vote there. While Martin said Dominion Voting Systems was responsible, she did not provide evidence for this claim. A press release from the Secretary of State’s office said it was a “likely possibility” that the discrepancy resulted from human error on Martin’s part. — Shaydanay Urbani