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Mercer Island MD: ‘Not possible’ for genetic material in COVID vaccines to harm DNA

Pharmacist Panciano Bautista prepares doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 4, 2021 in Federal Way, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Seattle’s Morning News host Dave Ross noted that he received an email from a listener who is worried about the COVID vaccines, and is not going to take it because it contains human genetic material, voicing concern that it might impact their genes. Should there be any concern that the genetic material in this vaccine could, over the long term, be harmful?

“I can understand how people would have anxiety about this particular vaccine. First of all, we’ve talked about before the fastest a vaccine has ever been made was four years, and that was for the mumps. And this came out in under a year,” Mercer Island MD Dr. Gordon Cohen told Seattle’s Morning News.

“Although this vaccine came out in record time, the science and research behind building a vaccine in this manner have been worked on for a decade, for a full 10 years,” Dr. Cohen explained. “So although it came out quickly, the science behind it was not new. So I think people are in general concerned because they think that we’re injecting genetic material into the body, which we are, but that somehow it could mix with your own genetic material and change it.”

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But Dr. Cohen says there is a big difference between our own DNA and mRNA, which the COVID vaccines uses, and will not impact our genetic material.

“But there are really some pretty important differences between our DNA, which carries all the information that we inherited from our parents and then mRNA, which the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines are made of. First off, DNA is double stranded, and is wound up inside the nucleus of the cell, the center of the cell. But mRNA is actually a single-stranded copy of just a little piece of the DNA that is originally made inside the nucleus. But then it’s released out into the cells, so it carries instructions that are just ‘read only,’ … these are ‘read only’ proteins,” he said.

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“When the body gets exposed to this mRNA, … the body will then develop antibodies to this mRNA that is part of the spike protein, so it can’t actually change our genetic material because it’s just something that’s part of the virus that our body recognizes as being foreign. And like I said, it’s read only. It sounds scary, it’s completely not possible.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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