Welcome to Video 12 of our series on Understanding Vaccines with Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, Head of the Discovery Health Centre for Clinical Excellence. Here she explains why COVID-19 vaccines can't change DNA, and shares how mRNA and spike proteins work.
There have been some concerns that COVID-19 vaccines can alter your DNA (the molecule that contains your unique genetic code). But there is no cause for worry - there is no way this can happen, because the vaccine never enters the nucleus of your cells.
How does mRNA technology work?
Some vaccines, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, use mRNA technology to direct the cells in your body to produce spike proteins, like those found on the surface of the Coronavirus. When you're vaccinated, mRNA is injected into your body. But once it's triggered the production of spike proteins, the mRNA quickly disintegrates. It does not integrate with your own DNA, because it only enters the outer cytoplasm and not the nucleus of your cells.
What happens to the spike proteins produced in your body?
Spike proteins are produced by the vaccine to prompt your body to mount an immune response, as if they encountered the real COVID-19 virus. This process helps train your body to defend itself appropriately.
Just like all other proteins, the spike proteins that are produced will then be broken down into amino acids and disposed of - they won't remain floating around your body. This 'breaking down of proteins' is a natural process that your body knows how to handle. Watch Dr Noluthando explain it here:
You can find a more detailed explanation of how the SARS-CoV-2 virus works inside our bodies here. Learn more about COVID-19 and vaccines here, and join the millions of South Africans who can proudly say, #IGotMyVaccine!
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