A photo of an article from De Andere Krant is circulating on social media that reports on so-called “DNA contamination” of the Pfizer vaccines. That would lead to the development of cancers. Several scientists are quoted for this, including Phillip Buckhaults, an American cancer researcher.
No indications of dangerous DNA in vaccines
Buckhaults spoke before the South Carolina Senate in September to raise concerns about rare side effects of the vaccines. He attributes these rare side effects to DNA contained in the mRNA vaccines.
However, DNA in itself is not a dangerous substance. Analogous to mRNA vaccines, DNA vaccines are also being made. One of these was developed in India and showed good efficacy and safety in a large study. Moreover, there are no indications that DNA from vaccines can embed itself in our own DNA.
Our own DNA is well protected in the cell nucleus and there are many lines of defense in our body against foreign DNA. Our immune system has provided proteins in our cells that grab foreign DNA and cut it apart. This is important, because many viruses want to introduce their own DNA into our cells and make new virus particles. These proteins ensure that this does not happen or is much more difficult to do. The content of the corona vaccines cannot therefore bypass the immune system, as claimed in De Andere Krant.
Rumors about DNA transfer have been circulating for some time
The idea that vaccines are “contaminated” with DNA has been circulating for a long time. In the 1950s, polio vaccines actually contained traces of DNA from the SV40 virus. This virus causes cancer in some animals. However, this has never been found in humans. Extensive research has never shown an increased risk of cancer in people vaccinated with contaminated vaccines.
In April 2023, a biologist and cannabis researcher published a preprint claiming to have found a piece of DNA from the SV40 virus. The author is part of Pandata, an international network of scientists that has often been discredited for spreading incorrect information about Covid19.
A preprint is a scientific article that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which is usually necessary to publish it in an academic journal. In this preprint, researchers compared the amount of DNA versus the amount of RNA in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. However, they used expired vaccines that were not refrigerated. Since RNA is less stable than DNA, RNA ‘decays’ faster than DNA. This makes it possible that relatively more DNA was found than if measurements were made with correctly stored vaccines.
DNA transfer from vaccines has been a long-standing concern, but in the past no evidence has been found that this is a common problem and leads to cancer. The preprint also provides no evidence for this. For example, she did not show that the DNA from the vaccine can embed itself in human DNA, which would be an important step in the development of cancer.
Buckhaulst calls on people not to spread fear around vaccines
In a post dated October 23 on X, formerly Twitter, Buckhaulst responded to the commotion caused by his statements. He writes that, as far as is known, no cancer cases can be attributed to the Pfizer vaccine and calls not to spread fear about this.
Feelings of fear make it more difficult to recognize misinformation
Playing on emotions, such as fear, is a tactic often used to further spread misinformation. Researchers showed that we are less likely to think about the credibility of the source in news stories that evoke strong emotions. This makes it more difficult to estimate whether information about a frightening disease is correct or not.
A South Korean study also showed that anger makes us more vulnerable to misinformation surrounding Covid19. It is obvious to become angry when you read that vaccines would endanger your health and that of your loved ones. That makes it even more difficult to recognize disinformation.
Other scientists mentioned also proved no ‘DNA contamination’
Wafik El-Deiry, one of the other scientists mentioned in the article by De Andere Krant, writes in a post on Linkedin that he sees a possibility how the vaccine could cause very rare cancer, but also emphasizes that the vaccine is safe and recommended for the elderly and vulnerable people. So he is a lot more nuanced than the article in which he is quoted. Other scientists disagree with El-Deiry and see no link between the development of cancer and the corona vaccines.
Angush Dalgleish is also cited as an expert who sees a link between the vaccines and cancer. Dalgleish, British cancer specialist and former politician, wrote at the beginning of the vaccination campaigns that the vaccines are safe and are also recommended for young people. Dalgleish later came under fire for promoting a vaccine from a company in which he also owned shares. In the meantime, other statements of his have also been fact-checked by other media.
Cancer register shows no increase in the number of new cancer diagnoses
More important than who claims what are the actual figures. It takes a long time before cancer registers can release their figures – a lot of time is spent processing those figures – but the figures for 2021 from the Belgian cancer register do not show an increase in the number of cancer diagnoses. factcheck.vlaanderen already investigated this in another fact check.
There are no reasons to believe that the corona vaccines cause cancer due to “DNA contamination”. There is no plausible biological mechanism that could explain this and cancer registry figures indicate no increase in the number of cancer diagnoses since vaccinations started. De Andere Krant quotes scientists who in reality are much more moderate than their article suggests.