Can the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA COVID Vaccines Affect Your Genetic Code?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are set to become the mainstay of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the year progresses, according to recently released government projections.

From September, up to an average 1.3m doses of the Pfizer vaccine plus another 125,000 doses of the yet-to-be approved Moderna vaccine are expected to be available per week. These figures are set to rise from October, as use of the AstraZeneca vaccine drops.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which contain tiny fragments of the genetic material known as “messenger ribonucleic acid”. And if social media is anything to go by, some people are concerned these vaccines can affect their genetic code.

Here’s why the chances of that happening are next to zero and some pointers to how the myth came about.

Pfizer Moderna COVID Vaccines

Remind me, how do mRNA vaccines work?

The technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is a way of giving your cells temporary instructions to make the coronavirus spike protein. This protein is found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccines teach your immune system to protect you if you ever encounter the virus.

The mRNA in the vaccine is taken up by the cells in your body, ending up in the liquid inside each cell known as the cytoplasm. Our cells naturally make thousands of our own mRNAs all the time (to code for a range of other proteins). So the vaccine mRNA is just another one. Once the vaccine mRNA is in the cytoplasm it’s used to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

The vaccine mRNA is short-lived and is rapidly broken down after it’s done its job, as happens with all your other mRNA.

Mammalian Cell Diagram

Vaccine mRNA is in the cytoplasm and once it’s done its job, it’s broken down.

Here’s why the mRNA can’t insert into your genetic code

Your genetic code is made up of a different, but related, molecule to the vaccine mRNA, known as DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. And mRNA can’t insert itself into your DNA for two reasons.

One, both molecules have a different chemistry. If mRNAs could routinely insert themselves into your DNA at random, this would play havoc with how you produce proteins. It would also scramble your genome, which is passed on to future cells and generations. Life forms that do this would not survive. That’s why life has evolved for this not to happen.

The second reason is vaccine mRNA and DNA are in two different parts of the cell. Our DNA stays in the nucleus. But vaccine mRNA goes straight to the cytoplasm, never entering the nucleus. There are no transporter molecules we know of that carry mRNA into the nucleus.

But aren’t there some exceptions?

There are some extremely rare exceptions. One is where genetic elements, known as retro-transposons, hijack cellular mRNA, convert it into DNA and insert that DNA back into your genetic material.

This has occurred sporadically throughout evolution, producing some ancient copies of mRNAs scattered throughout our genome, to form so-called pseudogenes.

Some retroviruses, such as HIV, also insert their RNA into our DNA, using similar methods to retro-transposons.

However, there is a vanishingly small chance of a naturally occurring retro-transposon becoming active in a cell that has just received a mRNA vaccine. There’s also a vanishingly small chance of being infected with HIV at precisely the same time as receiving the mRNA vaccine.

HIV Test

There’s a vanishingly small chance of being infected with HIV at precisely the same time as having an mRNA vaccine.

Even if a retro-transposon were to become active or a virus such as HIV were present, the chances of it finding the COVID vaccine mRNA, among the tens of thousands of natural mRNAs, is extremely unlikely. That’s because vaccine mRNA is degraded within several hours of entering the body.

Even if vaccine mRNA did become a pseudogene, it would not produce the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but just one of the viral products, the harmless spike protein.

How do we actually know this?

We know of no studies looking for vaccine mRNA in the DNA of people who have been vaccinated. There is no scientific basis on which to suspect this insertion has happened.

However, if these studies were to be carried out, they should be relatively straightforward. That’s because we can now sequence DNA in single cells.

But in reality, it will be very hard to ever satisfy a naysayer who is convinced this genome insertion happens; they can always argue scientists need to look deeper, harder, in different people and in different cells. At some point this argument will need to be laid to rest.

So how did this myth come about?

One study reported evidence for coronavirus RNA integrating into the human genome in cells grown in the lab that had been infected with SARS-CoV-2.

However, that paper did not look at the mRNA vaccine, lacked critical controls and has since been discredited.

These types of studies also need to be seen in context of the public’s wariness of genetic technology more broadly. This includes the public’s concerns about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), for instance, over the past 20 years or so.

But GMOs are different to the mRNA technology used to make COVID vaccines. Unlike GMOs, which are produced by inserting DNA into the genome, vaccine mRNA will not be in our genes or passed to the next generation. It’s broken down very quickly.

In reality, mRNA technology has all sorts of applications, beyond vaccines, including biosecurity and sustainable agriculture. So it would be a pity for these efforts to be held back by misinformation.

Written by:

  • Archa Fox – Associate Professor and ARC Future Fellow, The University of Western Australia
  • Jen Martin – Leader, Science Communication Teaching Program, The University of Melbourne
  • Traude Beilharz – Assoc Professor ARC Future Fellow, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University

Originally published on The Conversation.The Conversation

14 Comments on "Can the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA COVID Vaccines Affect Your Genetic Code?"

  1. Great article explaining how MRNA fundamentally works.

  2. victoria bingham | July 11, 2021 at 4:14 pm | Reply

    Isn’t it amazing how much you all know about what can or can’t happen with the never-tested- or approved by the FDA, brand new – untested on humans, tested only on ferrets,. (all of which died when exposed to the wild virus).. vaccines.. And are quite sure about what they can’t do.. Even though the entire testing on human guinea pigs has yet to even complete its first year…

  3. grow up social media is just that get real truths from the makers and their fact checkers as non trained social gossip is a waist of of time and you would beiieve any one , how smart are you ????

    • Holy crap. This is what I pay property taxes for? Reading this was painful. And it’s waste, not waist.

  4. elizabeth fernandez | July 11, 2021 at 5:46 pm | Reply

    “Harmless spike protein”??!!! Let’s just say for the sake of argument that the mRNA is harmless for the reasons you listed above. The truth is that the spike proteins that are being produced by the mRNA are FAR from harmless. The spike proteins are proving to be toxic in themselves and they’re going to be what tricks your body into attacking itself resulting in long-term autoimmune disorders at best; quick death by clotting at worst. This is already happening in some people who are not being heard by the mainstream media. The truth is nobody knows what’s going to happen long term. Maybe we will find out when the flu season ramps up in the fall and winter. But researchers definitely need more time, perhaps 2-5 years to watch and see what happens to the human guinea pigs injected with this totally new technology.

  5. I almost want to give a sharp focus on why it can’t reach dna, but it’s extremely obvious that there wasn’t very much listening the first time around.

  6. Outdated information. Please review the recent study on polymerase theta in human cells that can and does incorporate mRNA coding back into the DNA

  7. Daneil S Newman | July 11, 2021 at 9:02 pm | Reply

    The central dogma of molecular biology is an explanation of the flow of genetic information within a biological system. It is often stated as “DNA makes RNA, and RNA makes protein”
    The classic model of DNA → RNA → protein is now known to be false. It is now indisputable that there is a large class of viruses called retroviruses that carry genes that reverse transcribe RNA back into complementary DNA (cDNA). In 1975, Howard Temin, Renato Dulbecco, and David Baltimore shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for their discovery of reverse transcriptase and its synthesis by retroviruses (such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)) to derive DNA from RNA (Temin and Mizutani, 1970, Baltimore, 1970). Much later, it was discovered that reverse transcriptase is not unique to retroviruses. Today nearly everybody accepts that reverse transcription is non-specific to retrovirus, and is present in all normal cells.

    It has been established now that the SARS-Cov-2 virus will integrate with the human genome, see the publication titled SARS-CoV-2 RNA reverse-transcribed and integrated into the human genome. And thus it stands to reason that the mRNA vaccine can also be reverse transcribed and integrated into the human genome. But to what extent, we don’t know yet. There is also a concern that this may be transgenerational, as LINE-1 elements are tightly regulated in the germline. If it goes through the germline then each and every cell of that offspring would be able to express the spike protein which the mRNA based vaccines code for. This is utterly terrifying to say the least.

    I must also state that the authors of this page are being intellectually dishonest, labeling the spike protein as “harmless”.

  8. “some people are concerned these vaccines can affect their genetic code… the chances of that happening are next to zero.” But the chance is still there. And what exactly does next to zero mean? What is the exact number?

  9. So the reason you know this is that you haven’t looked, especially when studies that have looked at similar things (RNA causing cancers and other genetic issues naturally) that suggest your belief is erroneous.

  10. Covid is a scam | July 13, 2021 at 4:01 am | Reply

    Wow more fake propaganda being pushed by ignorant fools and so called “scientists” who downplay the risks to convince the general populace it is totally safe. I love how they are using strong adjectives to describe the chances of this happening as basically 0 despite there being numerous studies proving otherwise and despite themselves admitting this happens with hiv and other things we have known about since 1975. The population is being completely lied to, how on earth can these so called scientists claim to have all the answers when we are barely at the beginning of this human experiment? the spike protein is toxic , many scientists who have been brave enough to speak out about this have been silenced. Cytokine storms are going to be hitting the public like crazy over the next few months and especially as we head into winter / flu time. Notice how they are already upplaying the risk of flu this year? i wonder why………

  11. Are you for real | July 13, 2021 at 6:57 am | Reply

    I feel like I should point out that this obviously click-baity title probably contributed to spreading the false rumor that the article was trying to debunk.

  12. Miles Moccasins | July 23, 2021 at 10:28 pm | Reply

    Even now in late July 2021 still, at least for scientifically uneducated, regular readers of health science, high among what newly amaze me still are:

    (1) the lack of scientifically trustworthy, financially non vested, sufficiently clear information available (or even find-able) about the COVID-19 related virus and the related, current vaccines, and

    (2) the business lobby’s, governments’, and mainstream media’s UNIMAGINATIVE, almost universal, hourly, punitive, coercive, vilifying of thinking populations who do take the pandemic extremely seriously, do practice all the public safety protocols and more, and do treat the health of other people and themselves with respect, but remain unsuccessful still in their search for scientifically trustworthy, clear, and financially non vested information, and

    (3) how incredibly challenging the business lobby, governments, their medical systems, and mainstream media persist in making reality for non vaccinated populations (including the population described in the previous paragraph) who have questions, need them answered, but don’t want to be written up or to experience yet more criticism, threats, vilifying, and other pressure from the financially vested, pharmaceutical corporations prioritizing, corporate sector prioritizing, mainstream media, the governments who prioritize all of them over the needs and well being of people and planet,

    (4) the disturbing (if not shocking) lack of public, unwavering, ongoing acknowledgement from the business lobby, governments, and mainstream media that transmission of the COVID-19 related virus — and even more so the even more virulent Delta variant — is primarily airborne, and

    (5) that public and corporate protocols and responses to the pandemic ethically still utterly fail to reflect and address that (primarily airborne) fact in all (and almost any) public schools and childcare service spaces, which (like eventually all other workplaces and essential service spaces such as post secondary schools, government buildings, grocery stores, drugstores, department stores, etc.) before further occupancy should be upgraded to the most scientifically advanced, hospital grade ventilation for airborne microbes, and which, at least in the case of public schools and childcare service spaces, should require AND SUPPLY personally fitted, hospital grade NIOSH N95 masking by all staff, and federally tested, multiply layered, cotton masks to be worn by all children, and

    (6) that comprehensive, complete, clear lists of all ingredients and processes used for each available vaccine aren’t even front and center — if anywhere — on top or major public health websites! It’s at least unimaginative to persist in publicly accusing silently questioning, non-vaccinated populations while even such ingredient lists are not easily find-able and accessible to all. No excuses for this lack. Just do it.

Leave a comment

Email address is optional. If provided, your email will not be published or shared.