The Associated Press checks out some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. This one is bogus, even though it was shared widely on social media. Here are the facts:
CLAIM: The new vaccine for COVID-19 will be the first of its kind ever. It will be an “MRna vaccine” which will literally alter your DNA. It will wrap itself into your system. You will essentially become a genetically modified human being.
THE FACTS: Experts say mRNA vaccines do not alter your DNA.
As researchers work to test vaccines to stop the spread of COVID-19, social media posts are sharing misinformation to sow doubt even before they become available to the public. The posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram suggest that a new coronavirus mRNA vaccine will genetically modify humans.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccine candidates that began phase 3 testing in July both use mRNA. Such vaccines are a new and unproven technology that experts say offer an easier and faster way to produce vaccines compared to traditional methods.
They work by introducing a messenger RNA molecule into your body, which causes cells to produce a protein that resembles one of the viral proteins that make up SARS-CoV-2, said Brent R. Stockwell, a Columbia University biology and chemistry professor.
“Your immune cells then recognize this viral protein and generate an immune response against it, primarily by generating antibodies that recognize the viral protein,” he said in an email.
While there are other concerns with mRNA vaccines, such as the degree and length of protection and possible side effects, Stockwell said, modifying DNA is not one of them.
Dr. Dan Culver, a lung specialist at Cleveland Clinic, agreed it’s not possible for an mRNA vaccine to alter your DNA. “This cannot change your genetic makeup,” he said. “The time that this RNA survives in the cells is relatively brief in the span of hours. What you are really doing is sticking a recipe card into the cell making protein for a few hours.”
— Beatrice Dupuy
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