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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of June 6, 2024

Do COVID vaccines contain secret DNA?

The Claim:

A new video based on old claims asserts that scientists in Canada discovered previously undisclosed DNA in COVID mRNA vaccines, which they claim causes cancer.

The Facts:

The DNA many misinformed have claimed is running amock in mRNA vaccines is from a virus named SV40, a simian virus that is most commonly found in the kidneys of several kinds of monkeys. It can also sometimes infect humans and can potentially cause cancer via tumor (T) antigens.

Unfortunately, early batches of the polio vaccine became contaminated with SV40, and the methods used to inactivate the poliovirus did not reliably inactivate SV40. Importantly, epidemiological studies have found no increased cancer risk in those who received these vaccines.

Since then, a promoter gene (a DNA sequence that starts RNA transcription) of SV40 has been found to promote a high level of gene expression for producing proteins and has been used in DNA vaccines. The sequence used is just the promoter gene and does not include any part of the DNA sequence that encodes for the T antigen of SV40. While promoters like the SV40 promoter are used in the manufacturing of mRNA vaccines, they are not considered an ingredient in the vaccines as the vast majority of it is removed during production.

Manufacturing vaccines for a small batch for a trial is a very different process than manufacturing thousands of doses at a time. Process 1 is the small batch process, while process 2 is the scaled-up version.

Although the processes are different, they are both held to the same safety and quality standards.

Original claims that DNA plasmids were found in mRNA vaccines at a higher proportion of mRNA to DNA than is allowed by FDA guidelines stem from a previous preprint paper acknowledging that one limitation of the study is the “unknown provenance of the vaccine vials under study.”

They also note that the vaccines arrived without proper cold chain processes and were all expired. They follow up that paper with this preprint, where the authors obtained and tested “24 unopened expired vials” and “three vials of in-date remnants”. As mRNA degrades much faster than DNA, especially when held in suboptimal conditions, any proportion of trace amounts of DNA used in manufacturing would be amplified in expired vials, as these were,  or ones not held in optimal conditions.

Find more posts from Voices for Vaccines on SV40.

Are cardiac risks only present through vaccination?

The Claim:

new twist on the anti-vaccine flaming of myocarditis risks: they now claim that COVID infection does not cause myocarditis or pericarditis and that these conditions happen because of vaccination, making the vaccine riskier than the disease. None of the pericarditis cases required hospitalization

The Facts:

The claims from this tweet stem from this article. In it, of the more than 600,000 adolescents and children who had been vaccinated, there were a grand total of 3 cases of myocarditis, nine (9) cases of pericarditis after the first dose, and three (3) cases of pericarditis after the second dose. None of the pericarditis cases required hospitalization, and some of the myocarditis patients were hospitalized but didn’t stay longer than one day.

Contrast that to the risks associated with COVID infection. There were six (6) COVID emergency room attendances and 24 COVID-19 hospitalizations. Importantly, the incidence of COVID-related hospitalizations and emergency care visits was lower in vaccinated adolescents compared to unvaccinated ones.

What this tweet fails to consider is that the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis is exceedingly low. Myocarditis and pericarditis had rates of 27 and 10 cases per million people after the first and second doses, respectively. Also, the reduction in the risk of COVID hospitalization was greater than the increase in the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis due to vaccination.

As for “myocarditis and pericarditis only occur after vaccination and not after COVID infection,” as the tweet claims, they misunderstand the full picture. The study looked at only adolescents and children, for which myocarditis and pericarditis are extremely rare occurrences in any circumstances.

In this study, they found no instances of myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 infection. However, if you look at the population as a whole, we know that COVID infection is absolutely a more significant cause of myocarditis and pericarditis.

Do vaccines cause autism?

The Claim:

doctor who found his way to fame through COVID denialism is now spreading the old, tired, soggy myth that vaccines cause autism, and people are buying it.

The Facts:

The doctor in question, Dr. Pierre Korry, posts an article that he believes explains the mechanisms of how vaccines cause autism and attempts to draw parallels to the COVID vaccine, but he forgets that mRNA vaccines, such as we use for COVID, have very little in common with what the article’s author claims in the mechanism for autism.

The author makes several claims, the first being that vaccines cause autism. First off, there is plenty of evidence that tells us that vaccines do not cause autism.

Not only do the studies done to date show vaccines are not in any way linked to autism, but studies indicate disorganization of the prefrontal cortex in the brains of autistic people. This finding about brains links autism to development that takes place before birth.

Of all the risk factors for developing autism, we know genetics looks the most likely, and being vaccinated is not among them.

The next idea is the supposed unexplained explosion of cases. In reality, the reasons for the rise in autism rates are many: changes in how we diagnose autism, increased awarenesseducational changes, and fewer cases of intellectual disability are good explanations for most of the rising rates. Biological risk factors such as a father’s age and premature birth could also explain some of the rising rates.

Next, the author brings up supposed mechanisms of vaccine-induced autism, such as immune activation, inflammatory cytokines, brain inflammation, and heavy metals.

Immune activation, inflammatory cytokines, etc, are all parts of a living immune system. Any infection, allergy, or injury will cause immune activation and the release of inflammatory cytokines. Vaccines are just a way of introducing you to an antigen without getting sick from the disease you’re being vaccinated against.

Heavy metals are a large part of this article. One familiar villain is thimerosal, an organic mercury compound that was removed from all routine childhood vaccines since 2001, over 20 years ago. If autism rates have gone up since then, thimerosal is not the cause.

Aluminum is the next villain, citing one study that claimed to find aluminum in five autistic children’s brains. The study included no information on vaccination records. With hundreds of millions of children around the world vaccinated each year, a case study of 5 exceptional brains is not evidence that vaccines cause autism.

Of course, COVID vaccines contain no aluminum or mercury, so the leap Dr. Kory made from pandemic misinformation to autism misinformation cannot be based on any of the above evidence.

Want to see more information on autism and vaccines? Find more information on our website.

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