The increase in monkeypox cases has led to a rash of social media posts, many claiming the chimpanzee adenovirus vector used in AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine is behind the outbreak and some suggesting the infection is basically shingles and a “well-known” side effect of the jab.
Experts that PTI spoke to said both claims, which have become subjects of intense discussion on Twitter with multiple posts and thousands of retweets, are false. Adenoviruses and poxviruses are unrelated and shingles is not the same disease as monkeypox.
While it is true the AstraZeneca vaccine uses a chimpanzee adenovirus vector in its formula, the virus has been mutated to prevent it from growing in human cells. The role of the vector is to carry the vaccine component into human cells, and it does not establish any sort of infection itself, scientists explained.
“While both adenovirus and monkeypox are DNA viruses, one cannot cause the other,” said Vineeta Bal from Pune’s Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research.
A DNA virus is one in which the genetic material is DNA rather than RNA – for instance, adenoviruses, herpes viruses, poxviruses.
“Even for conspiracy theories that is ridiculous. It is tantamount to saying that since we are all frequently infected with human adenoviruses, we are at risk from smallpox,” added Satyajit Rath, visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune.
Monkeypox outbreaks in many countries around the world have raised alarm because the viral disease, which spreads through close contact and was first found in monkeys, mostly occurs in west and central Africa, and only very occasionally spreads elsewhere.
As during many past outbreaks, misinformation and fake news about the disease have spread on the internet.
“Who is surprised that after millions of people have been injected with genetically modified chimp virus, there is now an outbreak of monkeypox?” asked a Twitter user.
The post had over 6,000 likes and over 2,000 retweets.
“So after 2yrs, the rise in (monkeypox) cases is 'puzzling scientists'. So none of these 'experienced scientists' even THOUGHT that by using a chimpanzee adenovirus in a brand new vaccine that already has over 1500 side effects, that it MAY cause a few other issues down the line??” wrote another user with hundreds of likes and retweets for the post.
The suggestion echoed elsewhere on Twitter as well as Facebook with users highlighting a list of ingredients making up the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, known as Covishield in India, the most widely used preventive in the country.
Scientists also debunked the other claim that monkeypox is basically shingles which is a side effect of the Covid-19 vaccines.
Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. It is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.
Varicella zoster is a member of the herpes virus family, unlike monkeypox, a member of the poxviruses, and the rashes caused by the two viruses manifest differently on the skin.
Smallpox, on the other hand, is an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus, a member of the orthopoxvirus family.
Although monkeypox is caused by a virus that is in the same family as the smallpox virus, the former is far less severe than latter though it causes a similar illness that involves flu-like symptoms and a rash accompanied by lesions.
“Monkey pox = shingles. Shingles is a well-known side effect of the jab. You are being played. This narrative will not hold,” wrote a Twitter user with thousands of likes and retweets.
Another Twitter user asked, “Is Monkeypox really shingles from the jab?” The post had nearly 10,000 likes.
Experts said shingles and monkeypox are two different diseases caused by viruses from different families, and they are unlikely to be mistaken for each other based on laboratory tests or physical symptoms.
“To the best of my knowledge there are no 'side effects' of any of the covid vaccines which look like shingles as in eruptions of shingles or pain and tingling along the nerves, suggestive of shingles,” Bal explained.
“Distribution of pox in monkeypox, as far as I know, is not along nerve roots,” she added
Rath noted that there is no such evidence to link the two diseases.
“Immunologically, I see no reason at all to expect such an outcome in any fashion. And shingles do not look like monkeypox, either, to a clinician,” the immunologist said.
The two claims – that AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine is behind the monkeypox outbreak and that monkeypox is basically shingles and a side effect of the Covid jab – are ‘false’.