EXPERTS have rubbished anti-vaxxer claims that Covid vaccines can change your DNA.
Conspiracy theories are running rife across social media and threaten to block the pathway out of the pandemic.
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The idea that the vaccine starts altering a person’s DNA once injected into the arm has been doing the rounds for several months.
But it has gained traction once again this week, after a pharmacist was accused of destroying dozens of doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Steven Brandenburg, from Wisconsin, took the doses out of freezing storage at at the Aurora Medical Center and left them at room temperature overnight so that they would become useless.
He was arrested on felony charges of reckless endangerment and property damage five days after the incident.
A statement from Grafton police revealed Mr Brandenburg intentionally destroyed the vials because he believed the vaccine was “not safe for people and could harm them and change their DNA”, CBS news reported.
Scientists have today called the claims “utterly misinformed”.
Dr Andrew Preston, Department of Biology and Biochemistry at University of Bath, told The Sun: “I suspect somebody has invented it possible maliciously, and people have believed it.
“It completely does misunderstand what’s going on.
“It’s not even a maybe [that vaccines alter DNA]. The vaccines are completely devoid of the function to integrate into our DNA, and that is deliberate.”
DNA AND VACCINES - WHAT’S THE CONCERN?
Fears tend to surround DNA and RNA based vaccines, which use new technologies and have never been used before now.
Several Covid-19 vaccine candidates use this technology, including the Pfizer/BioNTech jab being given to Brits, and the Moderna jab approved for use in the US and Europe.
RNA vaccines use what’s called messenger RNA, or mRNA for short.
mRNA vaccines carry a fragment of the virus's genetic material - which is made in the laboratory, and therefore is not a real part of the coronavirus.
This genetic material is a piece of code which can tell cells what to do.
In this case, the code tells cells to make a part of the virus called the spike protein. This spike is on the surface of the coronavirus, and is what the immune system recognises before creating an immune response.
When the vaccine - and the code -is injected into your body, the cells use the instructions and produce the coronavirus spike.
The immune system gets to work creating immune cells that fight the virus. This prepares the body for real Covid infection in the future.
Dr Preston said: “That’s very different from altering the instructions, or interfering, with your blueprint or DNA. It is simply introducing an extra protein that the body responds to.”
DNA vaccines do the exact same thing, but in a more drawn out process.
Dr Preston said: “DNA and RNA vaccines work on similar principles. Rather than actually use the virus itself, you select on component of it, in this case the S protein.
“You take the genetic code of that component, and introduce that into cells. And your cell machinery decodes it to make that protein.
“It’s just one protein - not even the whole virus. It can’t really do anything.
“But it’s the protein we need, because that is what the immune system responds to.”
Dr Preson added: “The bottom line is it’s just not biologically possible for RNA vaccines to change our DNA.”
WHERE DO THE CLAIMS COME FROM?
One of the misinformed posts circulated online in December, when the Pfizer vaccine began being given to the most vulnerable Brits.
The 1,060 word post, copied onto various accounts, said: “All of those considering taking… this vaccine...You recognise that this permanently and irreversibly changes your DNA?”
It made a series of other false claims including that doctors are not dying of Covid, and that hospitals and test centres were “empty”.
Two prominent videos, from people within the health industry, have also done the rounds since last summer.
Osteopath Carrie Madej claimed in June “the Covid-19 vaccines are designed to make us into genetically modified organisms”, according to the BBC.
And a widely shared YouTube video of Dr Andrew Kaufman, a “natural healing consultant”, made the same claims before being deleted off the channel, Retuers reported.
Dr Preston said some of the rumours may have been spun out of the fact that some viruses can integrate into the DNA.
Coronaviruses, such as the one which causes Covid-19, and the flu do not do this, and therefore the vaccines can’t either.
Mark Lynas, a visiting fellow at Cornell University’s Alliance for Science group, told Reuters that no vaccine can genetically modify human DNA.
He said: “That’s just a myth, one often spread intentionally by anti-vaccination activists to deliberately generate confusion and mistrust.
“Genetic modification would involve the deliberate insertion of foreign DNA into the nucleus of a human cell, and vaccines simply don’t do that.
“The DNA [in DNA vaccines] does not integrate into the cell nucleus so this isn’t genetic modification - if the cells divide they will only include your natural DNA.”
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DNA VACCINES?
One of the positives about DNA/RNA based vaccines is that unlike traditional vaccines, they do not contain the live virus.
This means they can be manufactured much more quickly.
And, the body is never actually infected with the virus itself.
Traditional vaccines contain a tiny piece of weakened virus, that, although are incapable of causing disease, prompt an immune response.
An example of this is the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, which was the second added to the UK’s vaccine armoury on December 30.
But even those that use the live virus - like the Oxford one - do “not have the functions” to integrate into, or modify, our DNA, Dr Preston reassured.
The Oxford jab started being administered on December 4 as part of the NHS's biggest vaccination programme in history.
So far 1.4 million people in the UK have received one dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford vaccine.
And the Prime Minister has ambitious plans to vaccinate up to 14 million Brits by mid-February in order to release coronavirus restrictions.
Mass coronavirus vaccination sites are set to open across the UK next week, with more Brits getting jabs to protect them from Covid-19.
The government today confirmed seven new locations that would host jab centres, including football grounds and conference centres.
A spokesperson told a Westminster briefing that the centres would include Robertson House in Stevenage; the ExCel Centre in London; the Centre for Life in Newcastle and the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester.