By Lois Barker
Sub-edited by Jasmine Wing
One of the most popular conspiracy theories currently circulating is that mRNA (COVID-19 vaccines) will alter your DNA. Pseudoscientific content has been flooding social media networks such as YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook as millions of people around the world get their vaccines.
A Facebook post, which was shared thousands of times claimed that “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 only truth to this statement is that mRNA vaccines are being developed to help fight COVID-19, along with other types of vaccines. There is not one “Covid-19” vaccine, as suggested by the post, but lots of countries and laboratories which are attempting to develop vaccines to fight, some successfully.
President of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, Sara Riordan, told Forbes “I think people are concerned that because this is genetic material injected into the body, could it somehow mix in with your own genetic material and change it.”
There are over 50 candidate COVID-19 vaccines based on RNA technologies, but they do not change your DNA.
Conventional vaccines contain inactivated versions of the pathogen which causes the disease or proteins on its surface, this causes an immune response in the body which means it can fight the real infection later.
RNA vaccines instead contain messenger RNA (nRNA), this codes for a protein specific to the pathogen’s surface. The body uses this mRNA to build its own copies of these proteins which the immune system responds to by producing antibodies to provide protection if the person catches the real disease later.
The introduction of mRNA into human cells does not change the DNA of the human cells and if these cells replicate, the mRNA would not be incorporated into the new cells’ genetic information.