By: Praveen Kumar
February 17 2022
A BBC documentary shows the safe use of an HIV protein in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. This particular vaccine trial was later abandoned.
A Texan radio website called Republic Broadcasting Network (RBN) published an article on February 11 with the headline, "BBC admits they use HIV to make the covid vaccine."
The article refers to a 36-second clip from Rumble, a video platform known for spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation. In the clip, a man talks about a protein structure before clamping something down. A narrator's voice elaborates on the vaccine development process, saying a vaccine could be made using a tiny fragment of HIV.
The clip ends after that. The RBN article adds that the video shows a "true horror" behind campaigns for HIV testing, implying HIV samples are collected from the general public to make COVID-19 vaccines. However, this claim is misleading.
The video clip is taken from BBC's Horizon special named The Vaccine, which aired in June 2021. Horizon is a science documentary series. This documentary covers the journey of five vaccine teams around the world to develop and make COVID-19 vaccines.
One of the teams is from the University of Queensland, Australia. Professor Keith Chappell is the man seen in the video clip. He talks about developing a protein vaccine as a candidate COVID-19 vaccine, around the 11–13 minute mark in the duration of the documentary. The narrator says that the coronavirus's spike protein's shape triggers an antibody response. To ensure the shape is maintained, the Australian team used a small fragment of a similar protein from HIV to clamp the coronavirus' spike proteins. Chappell clarifies that using it would not make the HIV replicate.
The University of Queensland partnered with Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) to develop the vaccine in February 2020. It went into phase 1 of human trials with healthy volunteers given the first dose in July 2020. It was proven to be effective in generating antibodies against the coronavirus. It also generated HIV antibodies in some recipients — showing false positives for HIV. Although further testing proved that HIV wasn't actually present, the Australian Department of Health did not want the confusion to lead to a lack of confidence in the candidate vaccine. Hence, it was announced on December 11, 2020, that it wouldn't move to phase 2 of human trials.
The documentary covers the journeys of other COVID-19 vaccines — Novavax, Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca — and their partnerships with universities and health organizations. Around the 1 hour-10 minute mark, there is a clip of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's announcing that there would be no further trials.
The RBN story also includes a link to a BBC article published on February 10 about Prince Harry's support of HIV testing campaigns. This BBC article has no connection to COVID-19 or vaccine news. It is there simply to mislead readers because the common elements in the RBN narrative are the BBC and HIV.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.