Debunking: COVID-19 Conspiracies | Cami Dominguez
Whether you are a “Pfizer Princess” or a “Moderna Mami,” the long awaited COVID-19 vaccine is slowly but surely becoming more accessible to Americans. Getting the vaccine comes with its benefits, one of the greatest being getting a free doughnut at Krispy Kreme. Who doesn’t love to be rewarded with delicious carbs over doing the bare minimum? The CDC also announced that individuals that are fully vaccinated are now able to walk freely outdoors without needing to wear a mask. Though it seems like everything may be coming to a safe close, there are a select few those who advocate for positions against vaccines, which inevitably delay the closing of our pandemic chapter. Since the start of this pandemic, people have been looking for places and people to blame out of fear, which has allowed platforms and people with a “Qanon mentality” to fully take advantage of the situation. Whether it was the biological weapon created by China or a way for governments to rule the world, conspiracy theories have run rampant on the topic (as they often do in the U.S.). Now that vaccines are rolling out, people have their doubts, which is perfectly valid, but let’s take a step back and look at the facts before spreading and believing complete nonsense.
Claim no.1: The Vaccines alter your DNA/mRNA
Listen, as someone who is going into the humanities, I never really was much of a STEM kid, but I’m pretty sure that the rules of science, more specifically biology, wouldn’t allow this possibility. A woman by the name of Carrie Madej posted a video on her social media concerning the vaccines. In the video, she claims that the “COVID-19 vaccines are designed to make us into genetically modified organisms.” When speaking about DNA, it’s not possible to modify the DNA or mRNA: the vaccine is designed to train our bodies by building up gradual immune responses so that in the future our immune system can recognize the virus and know how to handle it. The President of the National Society of Genetic Counselors explained that she believes the reason this theory is appealing to people is because “people are concerned that because this is genetic material injected into your body,” it seems to them like it could have “potential” to change their own genetic material. To put it simply (quick bio lesson): DNA carries information we inherited from our parents and never leaves the nucleus, but mRNA is what these vaccines are made of. DNA is double stranded and bundled up inside the nucleus of our cells while our mRNA is a single stranded copy of a small part of DNA. In our bodies, it is made in the nucleus from the DNA blueprint and released to the main part of the cell, the cytoplasm, where it produces. Any mRNA vaccine closely follows the same system: it’s to teach and train your body to make the proteins necessary for a proper immune response towards a pathogen. This way, when the body is exposed to the real and complete virus after getting the vaccine, it will know how to react because it will have encountered it before. The mRNA from vaccines, however, will never go into the nucleus (it does its job in the cell’s cytoplasm), therefore never having the chance of affecting your DNA. Bio lesson done. Shoutout to my freshman year bio teacher, Mr. Gerstin, for teaching me sufficiently to somewhat understand this. Now please never make me do that again.
Claim no.2: “A volunteer died during the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial”
Out of most of the conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccines, this one seems like the most plausible one, maybe by those with only a mild Qanon complex. While the Oxford trial was still in development, a rumor, whose origin is not known, started when someone within the trial met a fatal result which seemingly came from the vaccine. In fact, connecting back to Carrie Madej, once her video hit the Facebook realm made up of middle aged moms named Deborah, Madej was met with a crowd of people agreeing with her false claims on the quick making of the vaccines: “Just like that! When they normally take up to 15 years to develop.” While I do get that the worry of the sudden appearance of the vaccine, Prof Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, assures the public that there was indeed a rigorous clinical process before the trials took place, and given the efficiency of the vaccines, it seems to have been pretty successful.
Claim no.3: Microchips
Not quite sure how to even approach this properly… this is completely false and I really hope this isn’t breaking-news information. Back in July 2020, Lewis Hamilton shared on his Instagram account a clip of Bill Gates, who funds vaccine research, dismissing and avoiding fueling any claims surrounding a microchip in the vaccines. Little to Hamilton’s knowledge, he had taken creator Kingbatch’s version of this Bill Gates footage. Kingbatch had added a very funny caption to the video saying “I remember when I told my first lie” with a laughing emoji. Yes. You read that right. Kingbatch, the guy from Vine and a Formula 1 star, helped perpetuate and popularize the microchip-in-vaccine conspiracy. Hamilton however, claimed to have never seen the comment and took down the video. Regardless, this definitely has more of its underground origins in some conspiracy theory sites but was popularized through mainstream social media. Though this conspiracy is more of a meme at this point, just in case you still believe in it — even if they were implanting the chips to be able to tell what vaccine you got, it wouldn’t require a microchip. There definitely are more efficient ways to go about finding out whether someone is vaccinated or not.
There is a massive divide between politicians and people — even then, many are still divided on a political basis. This creates the perfect environment for conspiracy theories to run rampant. I don’t blame people for being scared or hesitant of getting this specific vaccine, I realize that there are many aspects that contribute to one’s decision to believe conspiracy theories, especially in these uncertain times. But one should also consider the positives and greater deed of good that there is to getting the vaccine. So though I can’t blame the individual for resorting to conspiracy theories, instead of digging yourself into a conspiracy hole of claims with no solid proof and that fuels a dangerous mentality, double check your sources and believe in science.