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Fact check: No evidence SARS-CoV-2 is a HIV-based bioweapon; trials show vaccines against the virus are effective

A lengthy YouTube video features numerous unsubstantiated or false claims around COVID-19, primarily the suggestion it was purposely created as a weapon, using the same genetic material as HIV, and as such there is no way a vaccine could be effective.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The claims were made in a YouTube video (here). There are multiple other claims in the more than 48-minute video, which are beyond the scope of this fact check.

At various points in the video (7.40, 13.46, 14.30), the speaker claims that COVID-19 was designed as a biological weapon.

The virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, is believed to have emerged in the Chinese central city of Wuhan late last year, possibly from bats at a market with live animals. Chinese scientists have been carrying out research into its origins and how it jumped the species barrier.

As Reuters reported in November here), a World Health Organization-led international team is to develop plans for longer-term studies building on China’s findings, according to its published terms of reference.

The majority of virologists and infectious disease experts say the new virus is most likely to have evolved naturally (here).

The U.S. The Office of Director of National Intelligence, has stated (here) that it concurred “with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified”.

Later in the video (31.00), the host says: “What I want to ask you is this: so, in other words, as you’ve said before, whatever this vaccine is, it’s not going to cure that anyway, because it’s not a type of virus type thing is it?”

The speaker responds: “No, it’s a biological warfare — it’s an existentially dangerous, biowarfare weapon. So of course, a vaccine is not going to cure it, no”.

Vaccines are not designed to cure diseases, but rather to provide protection or immunity to them.

Studies of the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine candidate (here), the only one as yet approved for use in the UK, show that the vaccine was 95% effective at preventing Covid-19.

That same vaccine is currently being tested against a highly infectious new strain of the coronavirus found in Britain (here).

The interviewer follows up (31.24) by asking: “They haven’t even isolated the virus, right?”

The interviewee replies: “They’re still lying about what happened and where it came from and what’s in there, right. We just don’t know.”

The virus was identified by Chinese authorities on Jan. 7, 2020 (here), and China shared its genetic sequence with other countries days later (here). The virus was also isolated in patients in other countries (here and here) and the reference genome (here) is available on the U.S.National Institute of Health’s website.

The speaker goes on to say that the best explanation he had for the virus was that someone with the Wuhan lab “went down to Australia and, working with the Australian Health board DNA genetically engineered HIV into SARS.”

The rumor that Covid-19 shares significant genetic similarities to HIV has been circulating since at least early February (here), likely prompted by a preliminary article that has since been withdrawn (here). The theory was quickly refuted by the Wuhan Institute of Virology (here) as well as multiple other experts (here).

A mid-February analysis (here) of genetic sequences found that, HIV-1, the most common form of HIV did not contribute to the COVID-19 genome.

The speaker also suggests (10.40) that no one knows whether the new vaccines can alter a person’s DNA. He says: “The vaccines themselves, these Frankenshots by Pfizer and Moderna. They involve a totally novel technology — biotechnology — messenger RNA being injected into your system. Well, If you take a basic course in genetics, you know messenger RNA is extremely powerful. It can do anything to you. It can rearrange your genetic composition. And this has never been done before. It’s like putting a bomb inside your body, we have no idea what is going to happen.”

Reuters has already debunked claims that COVID-19 vaccines will genetically modify humans (here).

VERDICT

Partly false. There are various claims in this lengthy video. Of those addressed here, experts say SARS-CoV-2 was likely transmitted to humans from another species and there is no evidence it was created as a weapon using HIV. The virus has been isolated and its genetic sequence is available online. Trials of vaccines against COVID-19 have shown they can give effective protection against the virus.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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