Many people are hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19, either because they’ve heard the vaccines modify human DNA or that they contain live virus that can infect the recipient. Both claims are absolutely false, and here are the scientific reasons why both are impossible.
First, a brief biology primer. Every cell in our body have a cell wall on the outside (like a balloon) filled with a jelly called cytoplasm, in which different molecules and structures and the all-important cell nucleus are suspended. The cell wall is each cell’s first line of defense. The nucleus, which contains our DNA, also has it’s own defenses in addition to the outer cell wall.
Many cellular functions take place in the cytoplasm, where about 200,000 mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) molecules hang out every day. These mRNA are instructions that the cells in our body follow to build proteins and enzymes essential to the life of the cell and various functions of our bodies. So, the collection of mRNA in our cells is comparable to a cookbook. When the cell needs proteins or enzymes, it checks the cookbook and whips up a batch.
The vaccines work by getting a special mRNA into the cytoplasm where the cell’s machinery follow the instructions to cook up a protein. This protein is an exact replica of the spike proteins that cover the outside of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The image above depicts the spikes in red. These spikes are not the virus itself, they’re only appendages that allow the virus to attach itself to human cells. Because the proteins are only spikes that cannot replicate themselves, they are harmless. Anyway, the cell machinery thinks they’re proteins the body needs and requested, so they are pushed outside the cell, where the body’s immune system realizes ‘we did not order this’ and treats it like an infection. Immunity is built up, so if the real virus invades, our immune system is prepared and immediately attacks it.
The mRNA delivered by the vaccines break down into pieces after only a few days. The remnants are treated as waste and removed from the body the same way all waste is removed.
In this entire process, no DNA was modified, and no live viruses were injected into anyone. This is what the science says. Why believe scientists? Because scientists must be factual: if a scientist is discovered purposely misrepresenting the facts, they lose their job and will never get another position in their field again. It’s a serious business. That doesn’t mean scientists are never wrong or never make mistakes, but it does mean that intentionally misleading, falsifying data, or outright lying carries serious consequences. Thus, the vast majority of scientists have a high level of integrity worthy of our trust.
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