Claims have been going around asserting that a future Covid-19 vaccine involves injecting genes into humans, which would make them “genetically modified.” Others claim that the new vaccine will be an MRNA vaccine that has the capacity to alter one’s DNA.

Scientists and researchers debunk these claims, saying that a vaccine that could change a person’s DNA or “genetically modify them” is scientifically unsound.

DNA and RNA are the two main types of nucleic acids. Our DNA is responsible for providing the code for our cells’ activities, while our RNA converts this code into proteins. mRNA, which is also referred to as messenger RNA, is a single-strand RNA molecule.

While a future RNA vaccine for Covid-19 would work by giving instruction to the cells to produce proteins that trigger an immune response that could kill the virus, it does not have the capacity to genetically modify a person. This is because the mRNA sequence does not integrate into the person’s DNA or genome. This is according to Dr. Gaetan Burgio, a geneticist and infectious disease researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has published on its website an explanation of the working principle of vaccination, which is to stimulate the body’s immune system using an infectious agent or components of an infectious agent. This is modified so that no harm or disease is caused to the person but allows their immune system to understand how to confront and neutralize the infectious agent before it causes an illness.

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On the other hand, the process of genetic modification requires the deliberate insertion of foreign DNA into the human cell’s nucleus. Mark Lynas from the Cornell University’s Alliance for Science Group stresses that vaccines are not equipped to do this.

According to the WHO, a DNA vaccine works by introducing into appropriate tissues a plasmid that contains the DNA sequence encoding the antigen against which an immune response is sought.  DNA vaccines are not incorporated into the person’s DNA but only stimulate their immune system to trigger the appropriate response to fight a disease.

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