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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of June 1, 2023

Multiple Sclerosis rumors

The Claim:

viral anti-vaccine film is branching out with a claim that COVID vaccines can cause Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and the WHO knew it and kept it secret.

The Facts:

The World Health Organization (WHO) does keep a database where the latest global research on COVID can be found. Any research can be listed in the database, and the disclaimer on the site cautions that having an entry in the database “does not mean that WHO endorses or recommends those publications or sites, or has verified the content contained within them.”

An abstract for a conference presentation about research that examined two recent cases of MS was posted on the WHO database. It was not a peer-reviewed research paper, just a preliminary case report. Even the authors do not claim that the COVID vaccine is a causal link, stressing that more studies would need to be done to determine if there is any link and that COVID itself is more likely to be associated with autoimmune issues.

While the theory that vaccines could induce an autoimmune disease such as MS may make some logical sense because vaccines involve our immune systems, studies of various vaccines have not shown any connection to MS. Over 13 billion doses of COVID vaccines have been given worldwide.

22,000 for one life saved

The Claim:

An environmental lawyer and presidential candidate is taking to television to claim that 22,000 vaccines need to be administered to prevent one death from COVID, but the vaccinated have a 23% greater death rate from all causes than their unvaccinated peers.

The Facts:

Pharmaceutical companies released data from a randomized, placebo-controlled COVID vaccine trial showing that the vaccine was 97% effective at preventing severe disease for the six months it was studied.

As with any vaccine trial, all deaths during the study period, whether or not the death was caused by the vaccine, are included in the data as well. In this case, 14 people who received the placebo died, and 15 people who received the vaccine died. Two people who received a placebo died from COVID, and one person who was vaccinated died from COVID pneumonia. No one’s death was caused by the vaccine.

Studies show that communities with many people vaccinated against COVID had lower death rates during the pandemic than those communities with low vaccination rates. Furthermore, estimates suggest the COVID vaccines saved 20 million lives in their first year globally. If everyone in the U.S. who was eligible had received a COVID vaccine, over 300,000 lives would have been saved.

Our environmental lawyer candidate’s numbers sound quite official, but they are fabricated and dwarfed by the real toll of COVID and the potential of the vaccine against it.

Learn more about community immunity.

You put the DNA in, you get the mRNA out

The Claim:

A non-profit that began in response to pandemic public health mitigation efforts is claiming that mRNA vaccines contain DNA that can alter your genes. They claim that people should question not only mRNA vaccines but all vaccine manufacturing, licensing, monitoring, and study.

The Facts:

DNA is an integral part of the manufacturing process for mRNA vaccines. The DNA that encodes for the antigen, or tells a cell how to make that antigen, is used as a template to create mRNA for the vaccine. This mRNA carries a copy of the antigen’s template to the cells so they can present antigens on their surface. DNA is not needed as an ingredient in the vaccine, and almost all (but trace amounts) are removed from the vaccine before it ever gets close to your arm.

The claim that the vaccine had a higher proportion of DNA to mRNA than is allowed by FDA guidelines stems from a non-peer-reviewed paper, acknowledging that one limitation of the study is the unknown origin of the (expired) vaccine vials they studied, noting that the “vials were sent to us anonymously in the mail without cold packs.”

Since mRNA degrades much faster than DNA, especially when handled incorrectly (i.e., not kept in cold storage), any proportion of trace amounts of DNA used in manufacturing would be amplified in expired vials not held at the proper temperatures.

As for the other claim that human cells could use reverse transcription of the COVID-19 mRNA in vaccines to create new DNA, the article cites this study. The study, however, didn’t see any evidence that mRNA was incorporated into the human genome at all. What they did was force transcription using cancer cells “with active DNA replication which differs from non-dividing somatic cells.”

Replication for most cells is regulated, but cancer cells are not regulated and replicate without being stopped. Their transcription of mRNA can go awry, and some mRNA fragments can be reverse transcribed into DNA sequences, meaning an enzyme is used to generate DNA. Even then, the DNA just hangs out, doing nothing, and can’t get into the nucleus where our DNA is.

Even then, the study only found pieces of replicated RNA in the cytoplasm which, like the mRNA from the vaccine, can’t enter the nucleus of a cell where our DNA is stored in order to change it.

This study did something that wouldn’t actually happen to you with the COVID vaccine, even if you had cancer. That’s what it’s all about.

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