FACT CHECK: Viral Post Claims A Vaccine Stored At -80 Degrees ‘Isn’t A Vaccine’ And Is Meant For ‘Genetic Manipulation’

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims “any vaccine that needs to be shipped and stored at -80 degrees isn’t a vaccine,” but rather a transfection agent used for “genetic manipulation.”

Verdict: False

Vaccines are routinely stored at sub-zero temperatures, according to experts. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine can infect or manipulate a person’s DNA.

Fact Check:

The image shows a screen grab of a Nov. 15 tweet that reads, “Any vaccine that needs to be shipped and stored at -80 degrees isn’t a vaccine. It’s a transfection agent, kept alive so it can infect your cells and transfer genetic material.” The tweet goes on to claim that the vaccine will aid in the “genetic manipulation of humans on a massive scale.”

The tweet appears to be in reference to the pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, according to NPR. The vaccine developed by Moderna is also stored at a frozen temperature, minus 20 degrees Celsius, but can also keep for a month at refrigerator temperatures, according to The Washington Post.

Many vaccines are stored at just above freezing, while some require much colder temperatures, a vaccine storage chart published by the American Academy of Pediatrics reports. For instance, the Ebola vaccine was stored at about minus 80 degrees Celsius, according to the World Health Organization.

Dr. Warner Greene, a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines must be stored at “ultra-low temperatures” because they have components that are “fragile and sensitive to degradation.”

“The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are RNA based (a new type of vaccine platform never used to fight infectious disease before),” Greene said in an email. “Because the RNA component is fragile and sensitive to degradation, the vaccines must be stored at ultra- low temperatures (especially true for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine).”

Transfection is a biological term that refers to a technique used to “insert foreign nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) into a cell, typically with the intention of altering the properties of the cell,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica. While Greene explained that the vaccine could be considered a transfection agent in the “broadest sense,” it is inaccurate to suggest that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are designed for “genetic manipulation of humans on a massive scale.”

“An individual’s DNA is completely unaffected by this type of vaccine,” he told the DCNF. “The vaccine introduces an RNA not a DNA. The RNA is never converted into DNA, rather it binds to ribosomes and is quickly translated into protein. The RNA actually doesn’t survive for long but just long enough to produce enough protein to direct the immune response to begin making antibodies and T cells reactive with SARS-CoV-2 Spike.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has likewise stated that the COVID-19 vaccines will not affect the recipient’s DNA. (RELATED: Does The WHO No Longer Recommend Isolation, Quarantine Or Social Distancing For COVID-19?)  

“mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus and do not carry a risk of causing disease in the vaccinated person,” reads a statement on a section of the CDC website dedicated to information about the new COVID-19 vaccines. “mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA.”

The CDC website also states that “COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.” Other measures the CDC recommends include wearing face coverings in certain settings and social distancing.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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