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DNA fragments in COVID vaccines aren’t linked to cancer

Florida Surgeon General, Joseph Ladapo, MD, Ph.D., has continued to claim That COVID vaccines may be contaminated with DNA that can lead to various health issues like cancer. I have debunked this, but still, more and more anti-vaccine activists push the trope that COVID vaccines cause cancer. It doesn’t.

So I want to lay out, in a point-by-point debunking, why DNA vaccines sound scary, but they aren’t. The spoiler alert is that DNA in vaccines can do nothing to your cells or your body — biologically implausible.

Why is there DNA in the COVID vaccines?

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, DNA fragments are found in many viral vaccines as an active ingredient or as a byproduct of the manufacturing process. Viruses are usually grown in cell cultures, and some fragments of those cells can make their way through the manufacturing filtration processes. Those DNA fragments then end up in the finished vaccine.

But let’s review a few key points:

  1. Those DNA fragments are not oncogenes, that is, genes that can cause a cell to become cancerous.
  2. The DNA fragments are not full genes — they are nonsense, not coding for anything that the cell could use (if the DNA can even get into the cell, which we will discuss below).
  3. DNA fragments in the vaccine are measured in nanograms (one-billionth of a gram). Scientists need to use micrograms (one-millionth of a gram) of DNA to integrate foreign DNA into another cell.

There is simply nothing here that would have any effect on your cells. The DNA fragments in the COVID vaccines cannot cause cancer (or anything else for that matter) because they just don’t code for anything, especially cancer.

I don’t know where this all arose, but I think people are just scared of DNA. They think that somehow we are susceptible to random DNA changing us into sickly monsters. But that’s not how it works. Almost everything we consume as food is filled with DNA — corn, wheat, beef, chicken, asparagus, and McDonald’s Big Mac, every food has DNA. And yet we do not turn into an ear of corn.

But there’s more.

DNA in COVID vaccines can’t do anything to your cell

Since we don’t turn into an ear of corn, I need to give a quick biology lesson on why all this foreign DNA will not affect us. Beyond the fact that COVID vaccines contain DNA fragments that are nonsense to the cell, there isn’t enough DNA to do anything.

A cell is a very complex structure in the body. It contains a cell membrane that prevents some stuff from entering the cell and has receptors that allow important stuff to enter. The cell is filled with a liquid, called cytoplasm, that contains everything that manages and powers the cell.

Cytoplasm does not like foreign DNA, and enzymes in it will destroy any foreign DNA that enters the cell. That foreign DNA is broken down into simple nucleotides that are then reused by the cell. So any foreign DNA that goes into the cell would be destroyed.

But there’s more. Foreign DNA simply cannot enter the cell in the first place. DNA requires an “access signal” to enter the cell and then go through the nuclear envelope which encloses our genetic material. Foreign DNA lacks the access signal and lacks the enzyme needed to combine the foreign DNA with our DNA.

Peter Marks, MD, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), wrote “It is quite implausible that the residual small DNA fragments located in the cytosol could find their way into the nucleus through the nuclear membrane present in intact cells and then be incorporated into chromosomal DNA.”

Dr. Marks also said, “Studies have been conducted in animals using the modified mRNA and lipid nanoparticle together that constitute the vaccine, including the minute quantities of residual DNA fragments left over after DNAse treatment during manufacturing, and demonstrate no evidence for genotoxicity from the vaccine.”

Making this claim betrays the lack of serious knowledge about how the vaccines work and how DNA and RNA enter the cell. This is the knowledge that a first-year pre-med student would learn. And yet, Dr. Ladapo and other anti-vaccine activists continue to push the trope that DNA (and mRNA) in COVID vaccines somehow mess up our genes.

These people provide no evidence that it can plus they seem to ignore all of the basics of cell biology to make their claims. This is just magical thinking that is not science.


Let’s make this as clear as I possibly can:

  1. The tiny amount of DNA found in COVID vaccines is not enough to enter cells.
  2. The DNA fragments do not code for any disease, including cancer.
  3. The DNA fragments cannot enter the cell.
  4. The DNA fragments lack the cellular machinery to incorporate themselves into our genes.

Seriously, there is nothing here.


  • Passos DO, Li M, Craigie R, Lyumkis D. Retroviral integrase: Structure, mechanism, and inhibition. Enzymes. 2021;50:249-300. doi: 10.1016/bs.enz.2021.06.007. Epub 2021 Aug 23. PMID: 34861940; PMCID: PMC8732146.
  • Spisák S, Solymosi N, Ittzés P, Bodor A, Kondor D, Vattay G, Barták BK, Sipos F, Galamb O, Tulassay Z, Szállási Z, Rasmussen S, Sicheritz-Ponten T, Brunak S, Molnár B, Csabai I. Complete genes may pass from food to human blood. PLoS One. 2013 Jul 30;8(7):e69805. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069805. PMID: 23936105; PMCID: PMC3728338.
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