Not Real News

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 during a door-to-door vaccination campaign, in El Alto, Bolivia. On Friday, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming the chimpanzee adenovirus vector used in AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is causing the monkeypox outbreak. 

CLAIM: The chimpanzee adenovirus vector used in AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is causing the monkeypox outbreak.

THE FACTS: Adenoviruses and poxviruses are unrelated, and monkeys and chimpanzees are different species. While the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine uses a harmless, weakened chimp adenovirus to trigger an immune response, the strain has been altered so it cannot infect humans, nor could it cause monkeypox. As global health authorities investigate the recent monkeypox outbreak, some social media users are spreading unfounded claims about its origins.

“Oh, they put Monkey Pox in the vaccines,” suggested one Twitter user, sharing an image of an AstraZeneca vaccine pamphlet that listed “recombinant, replication-deficient chimpanzee adenovirus.”

But experts say it is not possible for the chimpanzee adenovirus vector used in the shot to cause monkeypox for a number of reasons, including that the two illnesses are unrelated, the viral vector vaccines cannot infect humans and chimpanzees and monkeys are different species.

“On three different levels there are issues with this theory,” said Dr. Mark Slifka, a microbiology and immunology expert and professor at the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Dr. Andrea McCollum, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Poxvirus and Rabies Branch, also told the AP that “there is no data to support this claim.”

Adenoviruses are a common group of viruses that can cause cold-like symptoms in humans and animals. Viral vector vaccines, such as the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, use dead, nonreplicable strains of such adenoviruses to generate an immune response that can in turn help fight the novel coronavirus, according to the CDC. Monkeypox is a virus that belongs to the same virus family as smallpox, but causes milder symptoms.

“Adenoviruses are adenoviruses, they are not poxviruses. They are completely different families and have no relationship whatsoever to each other,” Slifka said, adding, “there’s no cross-reactivity in terms of antibody responses between an adenovirus and a poxvirus.”

Dr. David Freedman, an infectious diseases expert and president-elect of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, confirmed that the adenovirus used in the AstraZeneca vaccine, and other similar vaccines, is not capable of making humans sick with either illness. Dr. David Heymann, a leading adviser to the World Health Organization, told the AP this week that the recent monkeypox outbreak appears to have been caused by sexual activity at two raves in Europe.

To date, the WHO has recorded more than 90 cases in a dozen countries including Canada, Spain, Israel, France, Switzerland, the U.S. and Australia. The cases so far have been mild, with no deaths reported.