An article from The Defender, a news website that describes itself as “an online news site to evade official censorship, to report fact-based news and sponsor the kind of honest debate that terrifies the new generation of corporate and government commissars,” claims that scientific research suggests that coronavirus mRNA vaccines might “permanently alter DNA.”
The Defender piece cites an “analysis” by “scientists at Harvard and MIT who sought to find why some individuals continue to test positive for coronavirus even after the infection has passed.” The scientists’ analysis hypothesizes that these positive tests are caused by coronavirus mRNA being “reverse transcribed” into the human genome. The Defender article goes further, using this as evidence that mRNA vaccines, which utilize a more stable and longer-lasting form of mRNA than found naturally, may cause the virus mRNA to be transformed into DNA.
For context, The Defender is the news website of the nonprofit Children’s Health Defense, which has a history of promoting anti-vaccine rhetoric. The organization has claimed conditions such as autism, asthma, and diabetes are linked to vaccinations, as well as environmental toxins and pesticides, per the New York Times. The group’s founder and chairman of the board is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. In February, Instagram removed Kennedy’s account for sharing false information about COVID-19 and vaccines, the BBC reported. In December 2020, Kennedy’s niece and a physician, Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled: “Vaccines Are Safe, No Matter What Robert Kennedy Jr. Says.” She writes: “ I stopped following my uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—a noted anti-vaccination activist—on social media in 2019, when he was posting misinformation about the dangers of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in the midst of an outbreak.”
The Center for Disease Control has labeled the claims a “myth,” saying that “COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.” More specifically, the CDC explained that both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNtech vaccines, which are mRNA vaccines, are designed to train cells to create a protein to trigger an immune response. As the CDC explains, the mRNA from the vaccine does not enter the nucleus of the cell, which houses the DNA, so the mRNA cannot impact a recipient’s DNA in any way.