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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of March 9, 2023

More Misuse of VAERS Data

The Claim:

An anti-vaxxer tweets an article reporting VAERS data to claim that 76% of vaccine-related miscarriages over the past 30 years occurred once pregnant women began receiving the COVID vaccine.

The Facts:

When you hear claims like these, it’s important to remember that VAERS is not a database of vaccine reactions, but of unverified claims. This is a distinction that anti-vaxxers constantly conflate. In fact, anyone can file a report with VAERS claiming a vaccine injury without any proof that the injury was actually caused by the vaccine. Also, keep in mind that increased awareness of VAERS, combined with vaccine fears spread by anti-vaccine advocates, has prompted a rise in VAERS claims since the COVID vaccine rollout.

Sadly, miscarriage is the most common way to lose a pregnancy; up to 26% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Clinical research has found no evidentiary link between miscarriages and vaccination. However, we have plenty of evidence from studies of pregnant vaccinated individuals demonstrating that the mRNA COVID vaccines are safe during pregnancy—and offer protection to the newborn after birth.

mRNA and Your DNA

The Claim:

A tweeted video features a physician claiming that COVID vaccines install a genetic code into people that can be passed from parent to child.

The Facts:

We’ve seen this doctor before. His claims that COVID vaccines are unsafe have been discredited by the scientific community and the American Board of Internal Medicine has threatened to revoke his credentials for spreading false and inaccurate information.

An mRNA vaccine cannot alter your DNA. Your DNA is housed in the nucleus of your cells and contains all the instructions for the development and functioning of your body. Messenger RNA, or mRNA, is transcribed and carries those instructions outside the nucleus where they are implemented. The mRNA introduced by a vaccine cannot enter the nucleus where the DNA is housed.

In addition, RNA, including mRNA, is single-stranded and cannot directly interact with double-stranded DNA. In order for RNA to interact with DNA, it must first be made into DNA— which requires an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. This enzyme is not even found in human cells, so interaction is impossible. And if your genome cannot be not altered by mRNA from the vaccine, there is no alteration to pass down to your offspring.

There is something that can potentially damage DNA, though: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.

COVID Vaccines and AIDS

The Claim:

Anti-vaccine Twitter claims that a purported 500% increase in AIDS cases among U.S. military personnel was caused by the COVID vaccine.

The Facts:

AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, was first identified more than 40 years ago—long before COVID vaccines existed. It is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which damages your immune system. AIDS is a sexually transmitted infection that can also spread through contact with infected blood or passed from mother to child. HIV progressively weakens your immune system until AIDS develops. By contrast, vaccines don’t weaken your immunity; they stimulate an immune response.

This twitter claim also wildly exaggerates a slight (30%) increase in military HIV diagnoses from 2020 to 2021; from 2021 to 2022, military HIV infections decreased by nearly 60%. These AIDS cases in the military—along with all AIDS cases everywhere else—are caused by HIV, and not by the COVID vaccine.

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