No, Pfizer/Moderna Vaccines Can't Give You COVID. It's Impossible.

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There's a new vaccine in town and all the nut logs and screwballs are blabbering nonsense rumors all over the Internet. Here's one that is especially bad – that the Pfizer/Moderna COVID vaccines can give you COVID. No, they can't. It is physically impossible. Here's why.

It's stupid rumor season (1). It's a Sisyphean task even to keep track of the Internet idiocy surrounding COVID, let alone choose the dumbest rumors, but this one belongs (at the very least) in the top 100, if not higher: messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are causing some people to catch COVID.

To understand why this is impossible, you need to know a bit about how these vaccines work. There are a number of ways that vaccines can stimulate an immune response. Some, like MMR and rotavirus, use live attenuated (weakened) viruses, while others use inactivated (killed) viruses (flu, rabies) or subunits – fragments of the pathogen (HPV, shingles). Subunit vaccines cannot cause infection (2). More on that later.

mRNA vaccines are similar to subunit vaccines in that they make use of a fragment of the virus. But there is a difference. While other subunit vaccines deliver the antigens that generate immunity directly into the blood, mRNA vaccines do not. Rather, they supply a bit of information into cells, which instructs the cellular machinery to make something, in this case, the viral spike protein – a very small fragment of SARS-2-CoV, the virus that causes COVID.

This is the function of messenger RNA. It acts as a "middleman" in protein synthesis by delivering information from DNA to the protein-making machines called ribosomes. (You can think of DNA as an instruction book from Ikea and mRNA as a temporary photocopy of one page.) And it's a damn good thing that the mRNA/DNA instructions are better than those from Ikea, or we might end up looking like this...

"Artist's" rendering of a man with Ikea-like directions in his mRNA. Images: RTC, Pixabay

Getting back to sanity, I stated before that it is impossible for an mRNA vaccine to cause infection. The primary reason is that the mRNA is chemically synthesized in a tube. There are no cells, bacteria, viruses, or anything living in the vaccine. Neither are there viral components – the virus's (complete) genetic material, structural proteins, enzymes, capsid, membrane are all absent. There is nothing in there that could possibly create a whole virus.

Here's a culinary analogy for those who may be a bit overwhelmed by the science:

  • Take a chicken bouillon cube
  • Put it into a pot of water
  • Cover and let stand for a week
  • Open the pot
  • Look for chicken

Will there be a chicken in there? Unlikely. Why? Because everyone knows that a bouillon cube is not an egg nor a substitute for one. It has a tiny bit of chicken schmutz, but that's it. In this case, neither the chicken nor the egg comes first. 

So, don't chicken out. Get the vaccine. If you feel a little under the weather like I did, try some chicken soup. It works wonders.

Just like the vaccine.


(1) "Stupid Rumor Season" runs from January 1st through December 31st.