Fact Check: 3 Myths About COVID-19 Vaccines

Millions of people across the United States have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a critical step toward ending this deadly pandemic. The more people who get vaccinated, the more lives we can save and the sooner we can all get our lives closer to normal.

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation surrounding the vaccines. When deciding whether to get vaccinated, it’s important to separate myths from facts. We talked to UNC Health experts about three falsehoods that have circulated on social media. Here are the facts.

1. The vaccines do not contain a microchip.

There has been an ongoing myth that the COVID-19 vaccines contain a microchip installed by the U.S. government or Bill Gates.

This is not true.

The only tracker tied to the vaccines is a GPS tracker on the vaccine trays that is there to ensure the safe delivery of millions of vials of vaccines across the country.

In the available vaccines, there’s one active ingredient: a molecule called messenger RNA, or mRNA, which sends your cells a message to make a protein that triggers an immune response to COVID-19. mRNA is something your cells use to make new proteins needed for cell function and repair, says UNC Health infectious disease expert Cynthia Gay, MD, MPH, who leads the Moderna clinical trial at UNC.

2. The vaccines do not cause male or female infertility.

Severe cases of the COVID-19 virus itself may affect the quality of a man’s sperm. However, none of the COVID-19 vaccines in use contain the virus that causes COVID-19. They cannot cause COVID-19 infection. You cannot “catch” COVID-19 from the vaccines, which means the vaccines cannot affect sperm quality.

With regard to female infertility, there have been rumors that the vaccines affect the placenta. This is false.

This is how that myth originated: The vaccines encourage the body to make copies of the spike protein found on the surface of COVID-19, which then causes the body’s immune system to fight the virus. Some worried that this spike protein also targets a protein in the placenta of pregnant women called syncytin-1. This is not true. They are different proteins, and there is no data suggesting that the antibodies from the COVID-19 vaccines will affect syncytin-1.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says you do not need to delay conception or fertility treatment if you get vaccinated.

“These folks treat infertility all day long and have even said that if you find out you’re pregnant between your two doses of a vaccine (each vaccine requires two), you should still be offered the second dose,” says Brian Brimmage, MD, an obstetrician who delivers babies at UNC REX Healthcare. “And they recommend against requiring a negative pregnancy test before someone gets a dose of a vaccine because that would be an unnecessary obstacle for sites administering the vaccines.”

3. The mRNA vaccines do not change your DNA.

Another myth circulating on the internet is that mRNA vaccines change your DNA and therefore could cause cancer.

This is false.

In fact, the mRNA in the vaccines does not interact with human DNA; it simply teaches the immune system how to recognize the virus. mRNA does not enter the nucleus of your cells, where DNA is located, so it physically can’t interact with or affect your DNA. In addition, mRNA from the vaccine is temporary. Once the mRNA has done its job, your cells break it down and clear it from your body.

For more facts about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit yourshot.org.