This public service announcement intends to reach anyone who is a habitual social media user – since anyone who is on social media or is close with someone who is could encounter the rumor circulating saying the COVID-19 vaccine changes your DNA. Because my wife and mother are both nurses, I have been around the medical world my entire life and have accumulated a bit of heightened sensitivity and knowledge about insincere health claims.
At this stage of the game, it’s no secret that misinformation runs rampant across our society. But with the new changes and concerns the world has felt, there is a whole new world of skepticism, fear, and deceit. The COVID-19 in 2020 pandemic changed the world for the foreseeable future in various ways, but its impact on health misinformation is the grandest of my lifetime.
The impact was so significant there was a mega health misinformation bill launched called the Health Misinformation Act of 2021 that essentially “limits” social media companies’ liability protections when health misinformation appears on the sites during a public health emergency.
From the surface, it appears that the COVID-19 pandemic made people more outspoken about their distrust and confusion with American leadership and how the virus was handled initially as a whole. But I want to focus more on the misinformation that still surrounds the virus to this day.
During the inception of the pandemic, I remember the skeptics that questioned the virus’s existence as a whole. I remember when former president Donald Trump recommended hydroxychloroquine to Americans as a “fix” to the virus. I most definitely remember the people that questioned and shunned “the jab” citing many medical concerns that have been debunked.
For the most part, the majority of those claims have died down, but there is a more recent COVID-19 vaccine misinformation claim growing wings; the notion that getting the coronavirus vaccine can alter your DNA.
This is a dangerous and false piece of misinformation that could lead to a world of harm, especially when doctors are backing some of the claims.
As mentioned earlier, there have been many “health concerns” cited by different skeptics as to why they don’t trust the vaccine; a lot of the time, this is a result of social media bots stirring the pot on sensitive topics they know are likely to induce an emotional response. Here are some examples of how bots will share and post the same content repeatedly.
This is an interesting claim because, as always, when analyzing a claim, I put myself into the lens of both perspectives, and I couldn’t quite figure out why a claim with such little insight and evidence had picked up so much steam on the internet recently.
To break down this rumor, you must first address what a vaccine is. Which, in its purest form, is a short or liquid form of medication that is used to recognize and fight off the subject of its attention. MRNA is a genetic material used to command cells to produce a protein to the virus, which, once produced, your body builds a response and resistance to it. Afterward, your body breaks down and disposes of the mRNA. To offer more perspective, vaccines only contain the inactive strains of the disease to build antibodies to fight against the virus.
To offer a bit more perspective, Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, two of the most popular coronavirus vaccines worldwide, use MRNA. In remarkable fashion, the Moderna website actually contains a section with thorough detail and many questions answered about MRNA regarding, what it is, does, and how it works.
So simply put, there is proven scientific evidence to show that the contents the vaccine puts into your body do not permanently stay there. Contrarily, there is no scientific evidence that suggests that any of the coronavirus vaccines alter your DNA. Vaccines have existed for many years, and no studies have conveyed their responsibility for altering anyone’s DNA or causing adverse effects.
Vaccines are a powerful tool that can help prevent contracting diseases, and in no way are they manufactured to alter people’s DNA; in fact, there are no technological advances that can alter a person’s DNA.
Although there have been some reports attempting to dispel this circulating rumor, as of this moment, the debunks have yet to gain much traction. Here are a few nasty tweets about the subject matter from as recent as this morning.
I would like to say as journalists, I think we can do a better job of finding these types of misinformation trends and turning them into stories, that way, the good could outweigh the bad in terms of the content people are encountering on the internet.
After all, it is journalists’ job to seek stories in an effort to inform the public, so it is vital for them to pay an extra amount of attention to social media and the trends that are taking off.
But even if you are not a journalist or media member, using the SIFT approach – stop, investigate the source, find better coverage, and trace back to the original – should always be your go-to and will guide you through sorting through the legitimacy of the content in question.
Using the SIFT approach for this is a perfect example because the evidence is easy to find, and there is an abundance of places you could look to quickly find information regarding how vaccines and MRNA factually function.
For someone like me, who has heard and been taught about these things since I was very young, it is easy for me to see and dismiss these types of health claims, but in today’s climate, it’s critical to ensure you take the proper steps to verify pieces of information accuracy. Verifying information must become common practice.
My intended audience is all social media users since this trend began on social media. I also think it could be targeted toward people who may not be frequent social media users but are around people who are because there is a good chance it could still be encountered and brought up. I chose to use the blog format because I understood the myth I was debunking would need in-depth context and detail, which I did my best to support while writing this blog. Additionally, I wanted to implement photos to try and make all of the information as sensible as possible.