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Claims that mRNA vaccines change human DNA are back

Despite being unsupported by research, claims about COVID-19 mRNA vaccines interfering with human DNA continue to circulate. This week, one in six adults (17%) surveyed in four states said they’d heard the claim in the last 7 days; 72% of those believed it could be true. 

Persistence of this claim may be due to concerns recently expressed by Florida’s Surgeon General that mRNA vaccines can carry foreign DNA into a cell. However, mRNA only enters the cell cytoplasm and does not enter the cell’s nucleus where human DNA is found. Messenger RNA (mRNA) in COVID-19 vaccines teaches cells to make a spike protein from the virus, helping the body fight the actual virus. Once the mRNA gives instructions to the cells, the body breaks it down so it cannot harm the body. 

The survey asked if people had heard that “DNA fragments in mRNA vaccines change your DNA, impact reproductive health, and can cause cancer.” Some adults were more likely to hear the claim than others.  

Rates were highest (over 20%) among respondents in Baltimore and Colorado and lowest in St. Louis (12%). Rates were higher among those ages 50 and older vs. under 50 (23% vs. 14%), and among African Americans vs. Whites (22% vs 15%). The proportion of respondents who heard this claim was up 43% from last week; most said they heard it from social media. 

Community organizations in St. Louis can share the resources below and this to help vaccine-hesitant community members learn how to better judge the accuracy of health information. 

This week’s report is based on 381 responses from a panel of adult residents of Baltimore, MD (n=26); St. Louis, MO (n=157); Omaha, NE (n=90); and Colorado (n=108), surveyed from Saturday, January 27, to Monday, January 29, 2024. Explore these data and more at iHeardSTL.

Download the graphics below to share about this topic.

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It’s okay to want to find answers to questions you have about vaccines. Here are a few places we recommend going to for answers:  

– Your doctor or child’s doctor 
– Trusted medical leaders like Mayo Clinic 
-Dedicated health websites like MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine

#iHeardSTL #VaccineConversations


  1. So when are we going to know the truth? My wife developed a tumor in her heart that was never noticable until after the COVID vaccine by the grace of God it wasn’t cancerous

    1. Thank you for sharing your comment, and good news that your wife’s tumor was found and was not cancer. That sounds alarming and scary; we are hoping for the best possible outcome for your wife and family. Research about the health effects of COVID and COVID vaccines is producing new knowledge and insights every day. And based on what is known today, there is no scientific evidence that shows that people who received the COVID-19 vaccine were more likely to get tumors or cancer compared to those who did not get the vaccine. Thanks again for using iHeard and sharing your question.

  2. I would find it very unlikely that a vaccine would cause a tumor especially unlikely that it would cause a tumor that rapidly. Luckily the tumor was found and she is okay. But here is some factual info from the official cancer.gov

    “CDC, NCCN, and other cancer-related organizations urge cancer patients to get COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots. Why?

    Data show that people with cancer and others with weakened immune systems are at high risk for severe complications from COVID-19. Vaccines have been shown to decrease the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, even among people with cancer. Plus, we have evidence that the virus can persist in immunocompromised people, which may lead to the rise of new variants. Therefore, vaccinating these individuals—and the population as a whole—continues to be important to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.“

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