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COVID-19 Vaccines Myth Vs Fact: No Vaccines Do Not Alter DNA

According to the experts, mRNA vaccines having the ability to alter human DNA is a myth as mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cells where DNA resides

COVID-19 Vaccines Myth Vs Fact No Vaccines Do Not Alter DNA
Highlights
  • mRNA vaccines give a message to the human body to produce immune response
  • mRNA is fragile and can hang around inside a cell for only 72 hours: Expert
  • mRNA vaccines are being used for the first time and are approved by WHO

New Delhi: Along with fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, medical experts are battling misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. Right from the origins of the virus, home remedies to cure COVID-19 and now with vaccine rollout, researchers, medical experts and scientists have throughout the pandemic had an additional task of dispelling myths and busting misinformation. One of the common myths doing rounds on the internet around coronavirus vaccine is that it irreversibly changes the DNA of an individual. NDTV spoke to experts to understand the science behind it.

Also Read: WHO’s Team Tracing the Origin Of COVID-19 Is Back From China; Experts Explain Why It Is Important To Find The Source Of The Outbreak

The myth the COVID-19 vaccines alter the DNA is specific to mRNA (messenger-RNA) vaccines as they use the genetic approach. Two of the COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech’s BNT162b2 and Moderna’s mRNA-1273 – are mRNA vaccines.

DNA Vs mRNA

Dr Mala V. Kaneria, Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai, suggests understanding the difference between DNA and mRNA. She explained,

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) is a double stranded, very long genetic material which is spunned up together inside a part of the cell called the nucleus. Whereas mRNA is a single stranded copy of a very small part of the DNA which is routinely made in the nucleus and released into the cytoplasm outside the nucleus. The function of mRNA is to act like an instruction manual to provide instructions to the cellular machinery to make proteins which are required for the body.

Also Read: COVID-19 Vaccine Explainer: How Do Vaccines Work?

What Are mRNA Vaccines?

In layman’s language, the job of mRNA is to give a message to our cells to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein which are like those of the virus. The protein then triggers an immune response inside our bodies.

Additionally, Dr Prashant Borade, Head – Critical Care Unit, Global Hospitals, Mumbai, said,

The available COVID-19 vaccines are designed to help your body’s immune system fight the coronavirus. The messenger RNA from two of the first types of COVID-19 vaccines does enter cells, but not the nucleus of the cells where DNA resides. The mRNA does its job to cause the cell to make protein to stimulate the immune system, and then it quickly breaks down — without affecting the person’s DNA.

Dr Kaneria added that mRNA is fragile compared to the DNA and can hang around inside a cell for only 72 hours.

The minute mRNA’s function of giving instructions to our cells is over; it is degraded by our cells. Therefore, mRNA doesn’t remain in the body for long, said Dr Kaneria.

Also Read: Coronavirus Outbreak Explained: What Is mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Technology Used By Pfizer-BioNTech And Moderna?

Are mRNA Vaccines Safe?

Dr Katherine O’Brien, WHO Director of the Department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals dismissed the rumour and said, there is no way that mRNA can turn into DNA. And there’s no way that mRNA can change the DNA of our human cells. She added,

What mRNA is, it is the instructions to the body to make a protein. Most vaccines are developed by actually giving a protein or giving a small, tiny component of the germ that we are trying to vaccinate against. And this is a new approach where instead of giving that tiny little part, we just give the instructions to our own bodies to make that tiny little part and then our natural immune system responds to it.

According to Dr Kaneria, the fear that mRNA vaccines can modify DNA stems from the fact that there are certain viruses like the HIV virus which are known to integrate into the DNA and cause its replication. However, in the case of SARS-CoV-2, mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA.

On December 31, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine for emergency use, making the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine the first to receive emergency validation from WHO since the outbreak began. Though the technology has been there for decades, Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is the first mRNA vaccine to be approved for use in humans.

Also Read: Vaccine Hesitancy: What It Means And How We Can Tackle It, Experts Explain

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

26,78,24,983Cases
22,84,48,447Active
3,40,97,388Recovered
52,79,148Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 196 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 26,78,24,983 and 52,79,148 have died; 22,84,48,447 are active cases and 3,40,97,388 have recovered as on December 9, 2021 at 3:47 am.

India

3,46,66,241 9,419Cases
94,742 1,009Active
3,40,97,388 8,251Recovered
4,74,111 159Deaths
In India, there are 3,46,66,241 confirmed cases including 4,74,111 deaths. The number of active cases is 94,742 and 3,40,97,388 have recovered as on December 9, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

66,40,888 893

9,964 157

64,89,720 1,040

1,41,204 10

Kerala

51,78,892 5,038

41,615 887

50,95,263 4,039

42,014 112

Karnataka

29,99,098 399

7,284 155

29,53,565 238

38,249 6

Tamil Nadu

27,32,648 703

7,946 36

26,88,142 728

36,560 11

Andhra Pradesh

20,74,217 181

2,011 3

20,57,749 176

14,457 2

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,502 10

139 7

16,87,452 3

22,911

West Bengal

16,20,803 574

7,576 0

15,93,659 568

19,568 6

Delhi

14,41,514 65

404 28

14,16,010 36

25,100 1

Odisha

10,50,760 255

1,931 11

10,40,403 264

8,426 2

Chhattisgarh

10,07,075 37

341 9

9,93,140 27

13,594 1

Rajasthan

9,54,984 40

236 16

9,45,792 24

8,956

Gujarat

8,27,873 67

417 45

8,17,361 22

10,095

Madhya Pradesh

7,93,288 14

140 1

7,82,619 13

10,529

Haryana

7,71,904 29

223 15

7,61,626 14

10,055

Bihar

7,26,259 9

36 6

7,14,133 3

12,090

Telangana

6,77,546 205

3,871 19

6,69,673 185

4,002 1

Assam

6,18,042 134

2,541 24

6,09,374 158

6,127

Punjab

6,03,578 22

350 0

5,86,614 20

16,614 2

Jharkhand

3,49,383 16

129 7

3,44,113 23

5,141

Uttarakhand

3,44,402 17

192 3

3,36,799 14

7,411

Jammu And Kashmir

3,38,198 151

1,639 38

3,32,070 111

4,489 2

Himachal Pradesh

2,27,753 69

722 14

2,23,174 81

3,857 2

Goa

1,79,307 65

441 37

1,75,478 28

3,388

Mizoram

1,37,377 320

3,049 10

1,33,819 309

509 1

Puducherry

1,29,128 23

230 1

1,27,022 22

1,876

Manipur

1,25,429 23

325 5

1,23,119 28

1,985

Tripura

84,888 14

94 11

83,968 3

826

Meghalaya

84,631 12

240 11

82,916 23

1,475

Chandigarh

65,515 7

67 2

64,628 5

820

Arunachal Pradesh

55,298 3

29 2

54,989 5

280

Sikkim

32,390 8

200 2

31,785 6

405

Nagaland

32,143 1

116 2

31,328 3

699

Ladakh

21,749 14

230 17

21,304 31

215

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,683

0 0

10,679

4

Lakshadweep

10,405

11 0

10,343

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,691 1

3 0

7,559 1

129

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