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VERIFY: Do the COVID vaccines have the ability to alter human DNA?

One Local 5 viewer asked us to dig into a claim seen online.

DES MOINES, Iowa — With a vaccine likely just around the corner, you have questions, and rightfully so. 

One viewer asked Local 5, "I have heard that the new COVID vaccines use human DNA that will alter people's DNA...To me this sounds silly, but could you please check this out."

We're here to break it down. 

To start, let's understand the difference between DNA and RNA. 

DNA contains our genetic code. It's the blueprint of life. You likely know what it looks like: a helix made up of bases. DNA lives inside the nucleus of the cell.

Meanwhile, RNA carries the instructions for making proteins, and that happens outside the nucleus. These are also known as messenger RNA or mRNA. 

Both are critical to how some COVID vaccines work.

Typically vaccines put a weakened or inactivated piece of disease into our bodies to trigger an immune response, but that's not how the Moderna and Pfizer COVID vaccines work. 

Instead, these vaccines create the harmless part of the coronavirus thereby tricking the body. That's done with mRNA, which carries the instructions to build the spike on the coronavirus, known as the spike protein. After that's created, the mRNA breaks down and is gone. 

Our immune system recognizes that spike shouldn't be in the body and builds an immune response creating antibodies, which is exactly what happens to someone naturally fighting the actual coronavirus.

AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine is delivered differently and is loaded with the coronavirus spike protein, but still uses mRNA to replicate. More specifically, it's a viral vector vaccine

All of this happens far away from any DNA. The mRNA and the DNA don't interact, as the CDC verifies here

The claim of the vaccines using human DNA to alter people's DNA is false. 

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