Fact Check

Covid-19 : Will new Pfizer’s vaccine alter our DNA ?


On November 10 2020, Emerald Robinson, the White House correspondent for Newsmax – Donald Trump’s favorite television channel – criticized the results concluded by Pfizer / BioNTech laboratories on their vaccine against Covid-19. She denounced « the use of mRNA technology that has never been tested or approved before« , « the DNA damage » and the fact that « 75% of volunteers in vaccine trials have undergone side effects« .


On Tuesday, December 1, the United Kingdom authorized the use of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech against Covid-19. 

An authorization that follows months of clinical trials and extensive data analysis by experts from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency who concluded the vaccine met the strict standards for safety, quality and efficiency. 

For its part, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced the same day that it would hold « an extraordinary meeting on December 29 at the latest » to allow, or not, the commercialization of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.


  • The DNA remains unchanged

Emerald Robinson claimed no mRNA vaccines – stands for messenger RNA, itself a single-stranded DNA – had never been approved before Pfizer tested its own one. This is the sole true sentence of her Twitter post. 

The difference with older vaccines is that it does not contain dead virus or harmless residues of the virus. This new generation of vaccine works by transfusing synthetic RNA into the body cells. This way, cells become a template to produce the virus proteins themselves, called antigens since they activate the immune system, training it to fight the virus properly. 

During the last weeks, some concerns have emerged from people scared that these RNA vaccines could alter their DNA as Emerald Robinson maintains. And such an hypothesis is impossible. 

The mRNA vaccine effects happen in the cytoplasm of the cells, where the proteins are produced. It does not penetrate inside the nucleus, where the DNA is. “Even if it did, the RNA could not interoperate with our genetic code unless it is transformed in DNA, which is not possible in the human cells” Professor Jean-Daniel Lelièvre, chief of infectious diseases department at the Creteil hospital, told Le Figaro. 

Moreover, every virus creates its own protein while invading human cells. And no one in that case ever feared a deterioration of the DNA.

  • Side effects : lower than claimed

The White House correspondent writes that 75% of people testing the Pfizer vaccine “have undergone side effects”, despite the results of the study saying otherwise. 

« The Phase 3 clinical trial of BNT162b2 began on July 27 and has enrolled 43,661 participants to date, 41,135 of whom have received a second dose of the vaccine candidate as of November 13, 2020« , Pfizer / BioNTech laboratories explained.

In its press releases, Pfizer/BioNTech laboratories outline a low number of severe side effects : 3,8% volunteers have undergone fatigue and 2% experienced headaches, without raising any safety concerns for any of them. 

The results are higher for the vaccine developed by Moderna. An independent board in charge of the analysis of the trial related 9,7% of participants showed signs of severe fatigue, 8,9% muscle pain, 5,2% joint pain and 4,5% headache. And these percentages shall not be added, a volunteer might have shown more than one of the symptoms. Besides, both pharmaceutical firms noted that the side effects subsided after twenty-four hours. 


The words of the White House correspondent for Newsmax – Donald Trump’s favorite TV channel – are mostly wrong. If Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine is actually the first of its kind, the reporter accuses the company of future DNA damages and claims that « 75% of volunteers in vaccine trials have undergone side effects« , despite the lack of evidence and studies showing the opposite. 

According to an opinion poll published in June 2020 by a dozen researchers, 71.5% of 13,426 people surveyed in 19 countries said they would be very or quite likely to take a vaccine against Covid-19. In France, 59% of people polled do not intend to be vaccinated according to the IFOP institute for the Journal du Dimanche.

Transparency is key. Vaccine administrators could alert people that they may experience a fever that can feel severe but is temporary. That would go a significant way toward people feeling like they are being told the truth”, Bernice Hausman, an expert on vaccine controversy at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine advises.

Matthieu Lasserre & Alexis Vallée