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No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not alter or interact with your DNA, RNA

The dubious claim was made by a Florida city employee during Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent press conference on vaccine mandate fines.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — From behind the same podium that Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Monday that cities and counties would face millions of dollars in fines for mandating COVID-19 vaccines for employees, a Gainesville city employee made an unchecked, untrue claim about the shot.

“The vaccine changes your RNA," said Darris Friend, a longtime Gainesville, Fla. city employee. “So, for me, that’s a problem.”

Friend is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Gainesville city government over its vaccine requirements for all municipal employees.

THE QUESTION

Does the COVID-19 vaccine change your body’s genetic material?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, the COVID-19 vaccine does not change your body’s DNA or RNA.  The vaccine delivers instructions to your cells to teach your body to build protection against COVID-19. But the material never enters the nucleus of your cells, which is where your DNA is stored.

WHAT WE FOUND

Our genetic code is in our DNA and that DNA is stored in the nucleus of our cells, according to molecular epidemiologist  Dr. Jill Roberts.

When the vaccine, which has messenger RNA known as mRNA, is injected into your body, it delivers instructions to your cells on how to fight the virus by triggering an immune response, according to the CDC.

But, those instructions never make it into the nucleus of your cells, which means they can’t get to your DNA.

Dr. Roberts says there are plenty of instances every day where foreign DNA enters our body – but it doesn’t mean it’s interacting with our DNA.

“This is akin to the last time you got bit by a mosquito – I can guarantee you DNA came in and that’s why you’re getting that inflammatory response to that bite,” she said. “But you did not turn into Jeff Goldblum.”

(That’s a reference to the 1980s sci-fi film ‘The Fly’ where Goldblum’s character invents a teleportation device, but when he tests it on himself, unbeknownst to him, a housefly slips in during the process, allowing the fly's cells to take over his human body.)

The myth that the COVID-19 vaccines alter our DNA is so prevalent, the Florida Department of Health has information debunking the false claim prevalently posted on its website.

Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades for flu, Zika, and rabies, according to the CDC. Beyond vaccines, mRNA has been used in cancer research to trigger the body’s immune system to target specific cancer cells.

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, which is a viral vector vaccine, not an mRNA vaccine, uses a modified version of a different, harmless virus to deliver instructions to our cells, according to FLDOH. Those instructions are delivered in the form of genetic material but that material does not integrate into a person's DNA.

FAST FACTS

  • According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
  • mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.
  • The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

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