Does the video "The One About Vackseenz," correctly describe the genetic impacts of COVID-19 vaccines? No, that's not true. The video peddles multiple COVID-19 conspiracy theories, including that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines "alter the function of your genetic code," which government and private experts have told Lead Stories is not how mRNA works. The post uses the misspelling of "vaccine" to attempt to evade falsehood monitoring software and Instagram guidelines meant to curb the spread of misinformation about all vaccines, not just COVID-19 vaccines.
The claim appeared as a video (archived here) published by Chris Crutchfield on Instagram on January 28, 2021, under the title "The One About Vackseenz." It opened:
We're being lied to specifically about these "vackseenz."
Social media users saw this post on Instagram:
The video opens with Crutchfield, an actor who hosts a podcast, saying he does not trust the vaccines for "a few reasons." At 1 minute into the video he claims:
...These mRNA vaccines are not vaccines at all. They are electrical devices, implantable nanoscopic electrical devices, that permanently alter the function of your genetic code.
Dr. James Lawler, MD Infectious Disease (Board Certified) with Nebraska Medicine told Lead Stories via telephone the claim is false.
That is crazy. That is just not true. They are not medical devices. They are little strings of mRNA. It doesn't go into the nucleus, it doesn't change your chromosomes. The nucleus is essentially your DNA wrapped up in a nice package."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also addressed the claim in a vaccine fact sheet, saying mRNA vaccines are not electrical devices and do not interact with human DNA "in any way."
Doctors do not conduct gene therapy, modification of a person's genetic code to treat or cure disease, by injection of mRNA. Dr. Lawler explained to Lead Stories why the vaccines do not alter the function of DNA.
The mRNA vaccines don't make DNA. It (mRNA) is a distinct type of molecule that does not enter into the nucleus of the (human cell.) Your DNA is in the nucleus, its own walled off area. The mRNA from the vaccine remains in the cytoplasm. It gets turned into protein by your cells' own mechanisms. It is impossible for humans to turn RNA into DNA because we don't have the enzyme that is able to do that. Only certain retroviruses have the ability to turn RNA into DNA. That enzyme is not in the vaccine and is not part of the coronavirus."
Dr. Lawler discussed the semantics of saying the vaccine "alters the function of your DNA."
It is helpful to think DNA function is to guide the proteins in your body. Every second your DNA is responding to signals from the cell to make more or less of a protein. If you think that making proteins is a function of the DNA, then the vaccine does change the function of what your cell is doing, but that is what it is supposed to do - get your cells to make proteins to stimulate your immune system. That's what your cells do. They are little protein factories. They are making lots of different proteins all the time. This gets your cell to make a protein. That protein recognizes the foreign cell and they mount a defense against it.
At 4 minutes, 1 second in the video Crutchfield claims:
The first thing you need to know, these vaccines are not designed to stop you from catching or spreading anything.
The stated goal by Moderna's own CEO: 'We're not aiming to stop the transmission or the reception of this novel coronavirus, the government didn't pay us enough money to do that so we're not trying to do that. What we are trying to do is lessen the symptoms up to 50%.'
According to the CDC Fact Sheet, and virology experts interviewed by Lead Stories for past fact-checks about that claim, the evidence is the opposite: The vaccines will both help keep patients from getting COVID-19 and reduce symptoms in infected patients:
COVID-19 vaccination will help keep you from getting COVID-19
All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States have been shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19 ...
All COVID-19 vaccines that are in development are being carefully evaluated in clinical trials and will be authorized or approved only if they make it substantially less likely you'll get COVID-19 ...
Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.
Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Experts continue to conduct more studies about the effect of COVID-19 vaccination on severity of illness from COVID-19, as well as its ability to keep people from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
Crutchfield also claims that the vaccines could make a person sterile. He says at 19 minutes, 10 seconds that the vaccines haven't been tested on pregnant women and then at 21 minutes, 30 seconds claims "It is an experiment they do not know if it will make you sterile."
Webmd.com published an article titled, Why COVID Vaccines are Falsely Linked to Infertility, that debunked that claim.
Indeed, data from the human studies of the Pfizer vaccine don't bear out this theory. In the Pfizer trial, which included more than 37,000 people, women were given pregnancy tests before they were accepted to the study. They were excluded if they were already pregnant. During the trial, 23 women conceived, likely by accident. Twelve of these pregnancies happened in the vaccine group, and 11 in the placebo group. They continued to be followed as part of the study.