Antivaccine nonsense Bad science Medicine Science Skepticism/critical thinking

Return of the revenge of the COVID vaccine “spike” in your DNA

Claims that COVID-19 vaccines “permanently alter your DNA” were resurrected recently based on a dubious study. No matter how many times you think this myth has been debunked, it always comes back for another installment of the same misinformation franchise.

As repetitive as I have been with respect to this, there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to antivaccine myths, misinformation, and disinformation, and that applies to COVID-19 vaccines. If public health officials and messengers had paid more attention to the tactics and tropes of the antivaccine movement, including its central conspiracy theory, maybe they would have been more prepared for the onslaught of antivaccine misinformation that was unleashed as the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were undergoing clinical trials and when they were finally initially approved under an emergency use authorization (EUA) near the end of 2020. They didn’t, and here we are, which is why, having seen it before multiple times last year, In addition to various claims of how “toxic” the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that vaccines induce cells to make as an antigen are, I’m faced with the return of the revenge of the antivaccine lie that mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines “permanently alter your DNA” (they don’t, nor do they “hack the software of life“, nor are they really “gene therapy“) this time from Jessica Rose, who is affiliated with James Lyons-Weiler‘s antivaccine “institute” with the humble name of Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge (IPAK).

Unfortunately, a week ago I saw this zombie lie resurrected yet again in the form of an article on Substack (where the cranks who’ve been banned from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. all go) by Rose titled It does incorporate into human DNA. And it’s probably messing up embryogenesis, subtitled, These injectable convid-1984 products are perfect bioweapons—either by design or accident. Who cares which. The outcome is the same. Of course, although these sorts of lies have long been known as “zombie lies” because they always rise from the dead after seemingly having been killed, I tend to like to call them “slasher” lies, in a nod to old 1980s horror movie slashers like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddie Krueger, all of whom have seemingly died many times at the end of one movie installment, only to show up to kill more college kids again in a new installment.

Once more unto the breach, I guess! I suppose that while I’m here I should link to the two studies published last week and cited by Rose in her Substack to support her nonsensical claims that (1) the finding of a short nucleotide sequence in the spike protein mRNA sequence used in the Moderna vaccine is slam dunk evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was “engineered” and that the “lab leak” hypothesis for SARS-CoV-2 is true and (2) that SARS-CoV-2 “permanently alters your DNA” by being reverse transcribed and integrated into the DNA in its recipient’s chromosomes. Let’s just say that neither Rose’s cited study from Lund University in Sweden about the supposed reverse transcription of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA-based vaccine into the DNA of human cells nor the study by Ambati et al about MSH3 homology support these hysterical claims.

Before I proceed, let’s just reiterate that the idea that vaccines can “permanently alter your DNA” is not new to mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, although the nature of these vaccines makes that claim easier for antivaxxers to sell as plausible to those not familiar with molecular biology. Indeed, if you really look carefully at it, the claim that vaccines somehow changes your DNA actually dates back to before scientists even understood DNA as the basis of heredity, as illustrated, for example, by this famous “Cow-Pock” cartoon from 1802 by satirist James Gillray about smallpox vaccine:

It's not the spike protein, but wow.
Even before genetics or DNA were known, antivaxxers were promoting myths that vaccines somehow change your very essence.

Savvy readers will notice how much a meme that was going around a year or so ago about the mRNA vaccines is very much of a piece with this 220-year-old cartoon:

COVID vaccine DNA meme
Funny how, even 220 years later, some things never change about antivaxxers and their claims. 200 years ago, it was turning you into a cow; now it’s bizarre changes based on DNA.

Truly the more times change, the less antivaxxers seem to. There is no real difference between the cartoon from 1802 and this meme from 2021. Only scientific knowledge has changed, so that antivaxxers can claim that mRNA vaccines somehow “change your DNA.

The “central dogma” of molecular biology, or: Why mRNA vaccines do not “alter” your DNA

Before I discuss the two studies and the claims being made about them not just by Jessica Rose but by a number of antivaxxers, let’s take a look at some basic biology and molecular biology, so that you understand why her claims are so beyond the ken. I realize that I’ve done this before, but it’s been a while; so instead of just including links to my previous discussions, I’ll include a brief explanation of something out of Biology 101, so that we’re all on the same page. If you know all of this, you can probably skip to the next section. If not, let’s proceed.

mRNA vaccines rely on the “central dogma” of molecular biology. As I’ve said many times before, I’ve always hated the use of the word “dogma” associated with science, but no less a luminary than Francis Crick first stated it in 1958, and it has been restated over the years in various ways. Perhaps my favorite version of the central dogma was succinctly stated by Marshall Nirenberg in 1958 and has since been commonly paraphrased to say, “DNA makes RNA makes protein”, which about summed up all of molecular biology in five words. (Why I used the past tense in a moment.) In any event, for purposes of understanding the very basics of RNA vaccines, this is the main sequence that you need to understand.

It’s true, of course, that DNA replicates from a DNA template and results in a double-stranded molecule that is very stable, as it has complementary sequences that tightly bind to each other in a sequence-specific fashion. This DNA template is unwound by enzymes that use the template to make RNA, which is single-stranded. That RNA—when used to code for a protein called a “messenger RNA” or “mRNA”—is then used by a ribosome to make protein out of amino acids. Again, to put it simply, each nucleotide equals one letter of the code; each three-nucleotide sequence (codon) equals one “word” that translates to an amino acid. Given that there are four nucleotides, there are 64 possible codons. Since there are only 20 amino acids, that means that most amino acids are encoded by more than one combination of nucleotides or more than one codon; i.e., the genetic code is redundant. Of course, as is the case with nearly everything in biology, it’s more complicated than that, as these diagrams show:

DNA to RNA to protein
The “Central Dogma of Molecular Biology”. Information flows from DNA to RNA and then is used to make protein.
How DNA codes for protein synthesis
Information goes from DNA to RNA in the nucleus, and then the RNA is transported to the cytoplasm, where ribosomes use its code to make protein.

There are complexities that go beyond this seemingly simple scheme, of course. mRNA doesn’t always start out fully formed. Often it’s made as a longer precursor molecule, parts of which are spliced out by enzymes, to produce the final mRNA sequence before the mRNA molecule is used as a template to make protein. There are also other complexities that go beyond the central dogma, such as retroviruses, which make DNA using RNA templates, and microRNA, which can regulate gene expression by binding to specific sequences on mRNAs and blocking transcription and/or inducing the breakdown of the mRNA molecule, for instance. You don’t really need to know the gory details of these processes or others, though, except retroviruses, whose ability to “reverse the flow of information”, so to speak, by transcribing DNA off of an RNA template using an enzyme known as reverse transcriptase will be very relevant to the discussion of the Swedish paper. HIV is the retrovirus that is the most well-known because of its ability to cause AIDS.

Complexities and exceptions aside, RNA vaccines consist mainly of, well, RNA. One problem with RNA vaccines is that RNA is an inherently unstable molecule. It is, after all, a messenger. It doesn’t need to persist any longer than the message needs to be made. In aqueous solution, RNA molecules rapidly degrade. Indeed, the instability of RNA is why public health experts have been concerned about distributing RNA vaccines. Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna adopted a similar strategy in designing their mRNA to encode the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein with stabilizing mutations added to lock this surface protein into a form easily recognizable to the immune system and therefore make it a better antigen. Pfizer and Moderna also used modified nucleosides (the RNA equivalent to DNA nucleotides) that are more stable to make their RNAs, and placed their RNA within a lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery system in which LNPs fuse with the cell membrane to deliver the RNA to the cytoplasm.

Naked mRNA of kind used in the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines rely on a very simple mechanism in which the LNPs deliver the mRNA for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to muscle cells, which then use the mRNA as a template to make spike, which is then displayed on the surface of the cell to be recognized by the immune system. Some of the vaccine does manage to get to the regional lymph nodes, where they incite an immune reaction as well. This is part of the reason why COVID-19 vaccines have been found to produce false positives in mammography done too soon after vaccination by causing temporary enlargement of the lymph nodes under the arm, which is why mammography recommendations have changed to incorporate waiting at least six weeks after receiving an intramuscular COVID-19 vaccine in the deltoid muscle before undergoing screening mammography.

Before I go on, let me emphasize that, even though SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus, it is not the same thing as a retrovirus and the mRNA in LNPs is not the same thing as RNA in retroviruses. Whereas SARS-CoV-2, like most RNA-based viruses, uses an enzyme called an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) to make copies of its RNA genome from an RNA template, retroviruses use an enzyme called reverse transcriptase to produce a DNA copy of their genetic information, which can then integrate into the human genome. That’s why, in order to produce a suitably fear-mongering narrative, antivaxxers usually have to look very hard for highly unusual, artificial, or special case experiments. Guess what? Rose found them.

The dreaded “Cow-Pock” all over again

So let’s see what Jessica Rose wrote about these studies. Her message is, unsurprisingly, very much like that of antivaxxers 220 years ago:

I started to write this article yesterday but not one, but two papers of great interest to me have been published recently and require dissection and dissemination. They are entitled: “MSH3 Homology and Potential Recombination Link to SARS-CoV-2 Furin Cleavage Site” and “Intracellular Reverse Transcription of Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2 In Vitro in Human Liver Cell Line“, respectively.

Let me be clear here: These COVID-19 injectable products are perfect bioweapons – either by design or accident. Who cares which. The outcome is the same.

Regarding the first paper, Rose writes:

Background for future: MSH3 (MutS Homolog 3) is gene that encodes a protein that is responsible for maintaining the stability of our genomes and suppressing tumor formation. This protein is DNA mismatch repair (MMR) protein which means that it recognizes and repairs bad base (nucleotide) insertions, deletions and mis-incorporations that come about inherently as part of DNA recombination and replication as well as DNA repair. You might have heard me talk about this in some of my presentations in reference to the recently-published paper describing 2 enzymes characterized to be inhibited by the spike protein.
…we found that the spike protein localizes in the nucleus and inhibits DNA damage repair by impeding key DNA repair protein BRCA1 and 53BP1 recruitment to the damage site.
This more recent paper shows the presence of a 19 nucleotide-long sequence (19mer) that in fact, contains the sequence that encodes the furin-cleavage site of the SARS-nCoV-2 spike protein. In other fact, this 19mer has 100% sequence identity (100% query cover and matched identity anti-parallel complementarity 5′-3′) with patented sequences from as early as 2015. (I am checking on the link to MSH3.)1

Aha! There’s the conspiracy theory! First, though, I’ll just note that this is far from the first time that I’ve seen the claim that COVID-19 vaccines somehow interfere with DNA repair. Last time around, it was the claim that the vaccine somehow interferes with a process known as non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) and thereby make those receiving it much more susceptible to cancer. That claim was deceptive. Indeed, the study was very poor quality and had no biological relevance to human cancer risk, although it did contribute to the fascist antivax claim that vaccines somehow “pollute” the blood, making the unvaccinated “purebloods“. Unsurprisingly, it’s exactly the paper Rose cited. The first paper, it turns out, is incredibly thin gruel, just a bunch of BLAST DNA searches carried out using a very small segment of DNA sequence that produced what are almost spurious results.

I might revisit that study in a future post, but it’s the second study that interests me more because it’s more than just in silico messing around and JAQing off. There were actual experiments involved (poorly designed and executed experiments, but experiments nonetheless):

Perhaps even more disturbing from a biological point of view, is something that many of us have hypothesized to be possible, has now been proven to be the case. Another new paper (link above) confirms that the Pfizer mRNA incorporates into human DNA. IN AS LITTLE AS 6 HOURS.
We detected high levels of BNT162b2 in Huh7 cells and changes in gene expression of long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1), which is an endogenous reverse transcriptase.
Huh is right. Huh cells are ‘immortal’ liver tumor cells and grow ad-infinitum if you give them love. They are good for using in assays that involve viral propagation. LINE-1 is a reverse transcriptase that we carry and comprises ~17% of our genome! LINE-1 retrotransposons are necessarily active during embryogenesis are aberrantly active in tumorigenesis.

BNT162b2, in case you don’t remember, is the generic name for the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine whose trade name is now Comirnaty. Rose’s claim, as has often been the case, rests on a kind of experiment that’s been done before to try to “prove” that the RNA virus SARS-CoV-2 can somehow mimic a retrovirus and insert its genetic sequence into the DNA of the human genome, just like HIV. (In this case, as you will see, it’s supposedly part of the sequence coding for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that finds its way into your DNA, because of course it is.) That’s why I’ll discuss this study first.

Artificial, thy name is this study

Before I discuss this study, let’s just reiterate that, for all the caveats to the central dogma of molecular biology, for the vast majority of cases in normal mammalian cellular biology, information does not “flow backwards” from RNA to DNA. One of those wrinkles, HIV and other retroviruses, requires two different enzymes to accomplish this “backwards” flow of genetic information. The first is the aforementioned reverse transcriptase, which “reverse transcribes” RNA sequences into DNA, destroying the RNA template in the process. However, that is not enough, as reverse transcriptase does not integrate the DNA strands thus produced into the human genome. A second enzyme is needed, a retroviral integrase. Integrases insert the double-stranded DNA produced by reverse transcriptase into the host’s chromosomal DNA; you can view this as a “point of no return,” after which the viral DNA becomes part of the host DNA, a form in which it is called a provirus, and a property of retroviruses that allow them to persist for so long in their hosts.

Retroviruses are not the only source of reverse transcriptase, as noted by Jessica Rose. Mammalian cells have very low levels of reverse transcriptase activity, so low that they’re usually not detectable under normal circumstances. One source is telomerase, which adds sequences known as telomere repeat sequences to the ends of chromosomes using an RNA template, to forestall the obligate chromosome shortening that occurs with each round of cellular replication. (Excessive telomerase activity is associated with the unlimited replicative potential of cancer.) Then there is LINE-1, mentioned by Rose and the focus of the paper.

LINE stands for long interspersed nuclear elements (LINEs). They are what are known as retrotransposons, also known as class 1 transposable elements or transposons via RNA intermediaries. Basically, retrotranposons can copy and paste themselves into different locations in the genome by making RNA and converting that RNA back into DNA through reverse transcription. Because it’s simple, I’ll “borrow” an illustration of how they work from Wikipedia:

Retrotransposons in DNA
How retrotransposons copy and paste themselves into DNA in different locations in the genome.

You might reasonably be wondering at this point what LINE-1 could have to do with genetic sequences from the vaccine somehow getting into the human genome, thereby “permanently altering your DNA”. You’d be correct to wonder and likely would wonder even more if I told you that most LINEs in our genome are inactive and don’t make any functional enzyme and that they greatly prefer their own RNA and don’t randomly reverse transcribe just any old RNA. After all, retrotransposition (the process) requires that retrotransposons be able to replicate themselves and then paste the new copies elsewhere in the genome. It doesn’t matter that, as Rose points out, LINE-1 does make up approximately 17% of the human genome. Very little of it is active in normal physiology, although increased LINE-1 is associated with cancer, neuropsychiatric disorders, and retinal diseases. (I almost hated to say that because it gives antivaxxers ideas.)

So what does the study cited by Rose claim? What did the investigators do? First, let’s look at the investigators’ rationale:

A recent study showed that SARS-CoV-2 RNAs can be reverse-transcribed and integrated into the genome of human cells [25]. This gives rise to the question of if this may also occur with BNT162b2, which encodes partial SARS-CoV-2 RNA. In pharmacokinetics data provided by Pfizer to European Medicines Agency (EMA), BNT162b2 biodistribution was studied in mice and rats by intra-muscular injection with radiolabeled LNP and luciferase modRNA. Radioactivity was detected in most tissues from the first time point (0.25 h), and results showed that the injection site and the liver were the major sites of distribution, with maximum concentrations observed at 8–48 h post-dose [26]. Furthermore, in animals that received the BNT162b2 injection, reversible hepatic effects were observed, including enlarged liver, vacuolation, increased gamma glutamyl transferase (γGT) levels, and increased levels of aspartate transaminase (AST) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) [26]. Transient hepatic effects induced by LNP delivery systems have been reported previously [27,28,29,30], nevertheless, it has also been shown that the empty LNP without modRNA alone does not introduce any significant liver injury [27]. Therefore, in this study, we aim to examine the effect of BNT162b2 on a human liver cell line in vitro and investigate if BNT162b2 can be reverse transcribed into DNA through endogenous mechanisms.

This is thin gruel as a rationale. I note that I’ve discussed the cited study before, which involved the intravenous injection of a large amount of LNPs with a different mRNA than the vaccine’s spike protein mRNA, again an artificial design intended to make determination of the biodistribution of the LNPs possible given that in an intramuscular injection the vast majority of the mRNA remained at the injection site and in nearby lymph nodes.

I also note that it is not a new claim that SARS-CoV-2 itself is reverse transcribed in the infected cell to integrate with the host genome. This is a study from last summer that antivaxxers previously used to claim that, based on the supposed ability of SARS-CoV-2 to reverse transcribe, the vaccine could do the same. Let’s just say that this study was justifiably harshly criticized as not reproduciblevery rare, and almost certainly artifacts of the experimental conditions used, given that appropriate controls weren’t used. To cite Ed Nirenberg again, no, SARS-CoV-2 is not reverse-transcribed to any significant extent, the publication of the study in PNAS notwithstanding.

I get the same vibes from this new study. So what did the authors do? They did indeed take Huh7 liver cells and expose them to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (BNT162b2), at 200,000 cells/well in 24-well plates. Then they did this:

BNT162b2 suspension was then added in cell culture media to reach final concentrations of 0.5, 1.0, or 2.0 μg/mL. Huh7 cells were incubated with or without BNT162b2 for 6, 24, and 48 h. Cells were washed thoroughly with PBS and harvested by trypsinization and stored in −80 °C until further use.

After 48 hours, the cells were harvested. RNA was extracted for PCR, and in other experiments genomic DNA was extracted from the cells. Of particular importance however, is that the segment of the nucleic acid for the spike protein that was amplified by PCR was this:

The sequence that supposedly gets inserted into your DNA
SARS-CoV-2 spike amplicon: The sequence that supposedly gets inserted into your DNA

Why did they pick primers that amplified only this segment of the gene for spike protein? PCR efficiency drops off the longer the segment that is amplified, and a 444 base segment is actually rather long for quantitative real time PCR. In any event, this choice means that the only thing that can be said is that perhaps this segment of spike was reverse transcribed. Another thing to note is that a very high concentration of vaccine was used, microgram quantities for only 200,000 cells. That in and of itself is very artificial, but that’s not all that’s artificial. As Ed Nirenberg points out, Huh7 was derived from a liver cancer. Unsurprisingly, the Huh7 genome is, as is the case with many cancer-derived cell lines, really messed up.

He also notes that L-1 expression is substantially overexpressed in cancer (i.e., cancer cells have a lot more of it than normal cells).

In other words, the investigators stacked the deck by using a cell line that has a high level of LINE-1. If I were a peer reviewer for this study, I would have demanded that the investigators use a more genomically “normal” cell line. No cell line that is immortal—can propagate indefinitely—has a “normal” genome, but some have genomes that are less messed up than others. There are a number of respiratory cell lines, for instance, that could work, or what about simple primary cultures of vascular endothelial cells, such as HUVECs (human umbilical vein endothelial cells)? Why did they use only one cell line? In general, if you see a paper that uses only one cell line, be very, very skeptical, not just for COVID-19 but for any basic science studies.

So back to the paper. What did the authors find? Yes, they found that the vaccine, as expected, drove spike mRNA expression, leading to high levels in the cells, while not having much effect on LINE-1 expression, concluding that increased LINE-1 expression compared to control was observed at 6 h by 2.0 µg/mL BNT162b2, while lower BNT162b2 concentrations decreased LINE-1 expression at all time points. If you look at the figure, I call noise, because it doesn’t make a lot of physiologic sense that the lower vaccine concentrations would depress LINE-1 expression but lead to increased expression only at the 6 hour time point.

LINE-1 control
Whenever you see a graph like this, get out your BS detector.

Hilariously, this chart is the very same one included in Rose’s article, but she fails to see its shortcoming. Amusingly, the authors used two-tailed Student’s t-tests to compare these differences, which is not the correct statistical test for multiple time-dependent comparisons, and the finding of this result is most consistent with noise. Had I been a peer reviewer, I would definitely have called out the statistics used.

But what about reverse-transcribed DNA for spike? Yes, the authors did detect that in the genomic DNA isolated from the cells. They even sequenced the amplified segment and found that it was the same spike sequence targeted by the PCR primers. Checkmate, scientists! Not quite, and the authors even add some weasel words:

In this study we present evidence that COVID-19 mRNA vaccine BNT162b2 is able to enter the human liver cell line Huh7 in vitro. BNT162b2 mRNA is reverse transcribed intracellularly into DNA as fast as 6 h after BNT162b2 exposure. A possible mechanism for reverse transcription is through endogenous reverse transcriptase LINE-1, and the nucleus protein distribution of LINE-1 is elevated by BNT162b2.

Note that this study most definitely did not show that this reverse transcription had anything to do with LINE-1, leaving the authors to speculate. They could have presented evidence that LINE-1 was responsible, perhaps by knocking it out to produce cells that don’t make it or using siRNA that targets the LINE-1 mRNA to decrease its level, and showing that that it blocked the reverse transcription of spike. They didn’t do that. So they speculate, and antivaxxers ignore that this is speculation to present it as a fact that SARS-CoV-2 is reverse transcribed through the reverse transcriptase activity of LINE-1.


Our study shows that BNT162b2 can be reverse transcribed to DNA in liver cell line Huh7, and this may give rise to the concern if BNT162b2-derived DNA may be integrated into the host genome and affect the integrity of genomic DNA, which may potentially mediate genotoxic side effects. At this stage, we do not know if DNA reverse transcribed from BNT162b2 is integrated into the cell genome. Further studies are needed to demonstrate the effect of BNT162b2 on genomic integrity, including whole genome sequencing of cells exposed to BNT162b2, as well as tissues from human subjects who received BNT162b2 vaccination.

This led to some epic handwaving:

The cell model that we used in this study is a carcinoma cell line, with active DNA replication which differs from non-dividing somatic cells. It has also been shown that Huh7 cells display significant different gene and protein expression including upregulated proteins involved in RNA metabolism [56]. However, cell proliferation is also active in several human tissues such as the bone marrow or basal layers of epithelia as well as during embryogenesis, and it is therefore necessary to examine the effect of BNT162b2 on genomic integrity under such conditions. Furthermore, effective retrotransposition of LINE-1 has also been reported in non-dividing and terminally differentiated cells, such as human neurons [57,58].

Sure thing, guys, but no. This is, as I said, just handwaving.

As Ed Nirenberg asks, why didn’t they bother to do the necessary follow-up experiments to determine if this DNA sequence is actually integrated into the genome? Come to think of it, why didn’t they do PCR of the entire spike sequence to show that the full length sequence had been reverse-transcribed? Or even just do PCR of different fragments from the spike sequence? It boggles the mind.

None of this stops Rose from going straight off the end of the plank of science to this conclusion:

LINE-1 retrotransposons are also involved during early embryonic development. Since LINE-1 expression levels are significantly increased then what effect is this over-expression having on embryogenesis?
We found that too much or too little LINE-1 expression caused development to come to a halt. This means that the precise timing and level of retrotransposon expression is critical for the development of the embryo.”
I need a walk. This article will be updated.

I can hardly wait for Rose’s “updates”, given how far she had to reach to find some rationale to take a highly artificial experiment that almost certainly doesn’t show that the mRNA for the SARS-CoV-2 spike used in COVID-19 vaccines is reverse transcribed under normal conditions, much less “integrated” into the genome of the cells in which it finds itself. I’m guessing that her “updates” will be as hilariously off base as her original post.

The “slasher” lie about COVID-19 vaccines “permanently altering” your DNA always comes back

As I like to say, in antivaxland, everything old is new again in the age of COVID-19. However, as the pandemic grinds on, entering its third year, even everything old that was new again when COVID-19 struck is becoming old. The idea that COVID-19 vaccines “permanently alter your DNA” has now spawned a number of—if you’ll excuse my use of the term—variants. What Jessica Rose is promoting, aided and abetted by these awful studies published in bottom feeding journals, is simply helping to spread variants of this particular conspiracy theories, her recent amusing whining about supposed “hit pieces” notwithstanding.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

63 replies on “Return of the revenge of the COVID vaccine “spike” in your DNA”

But John, you’ve already admitted that you don’t approve of any “traditional” vaccines either.

Then save me the trouble of digging up the quote, and list the vaccines on the childhood and adult schedules that you recommend.

I missed one of John’s comments last month; he eventually came up with 3 vaccines for which he could manage support – polio, tetanus and Hep B. What he’s said he opposes is a much longer list, including vaccines for influenza, Covid-19, the MMR, and a blanket rejection of the modern vaccine schedule (John proclaims that vaccine recommendations have long been corrupt and untrustworthy). Quoting John:

“I don’t see any reason to go beyond the 1980s schedule for child hood vaccines that I received as a kid. I delayed my kids’ vaccines accordingly. I’m against HPV, not sure on Chickenpox and against current vax schedule (because it’s based on compromised CDC adding unneeded jabs to the schedule that gets to the states and they adopt for school admission – it’s a scam.).”

John’s grudging support for a few vaccines is tempered by the myriad antivax memes he frequently spews on RI, including the suggestion that vaccines are “laced with poison”. It’s a common tactic among antivaxers and antivax physicians such as Bob Sears and Paul Thomas – give token approval to a few vaccines or a limited/delayed pediatric schedule, while engaging in wholesale deception and fearmongering in order to steer people away from getting any vaccines.

polio, tetanus and Hep B

Not diphtheria vaccine?

Being against diphtheria vaccine puts you in the heartless bastard category as far as I am concerned.

Same goes for the pertussis vaccine.

The more I think about the harms done by vaccine preventable childhood diseases, I feel I should add a swag of other vaccines into the list. I can’t come up with any on the childhood vaccination list where I would go “meh, we could do without that”. If only there had been a chickenpox vaccine when I was a child, I would not have brought chickenpox home from my first month at school. I might even have memories of that week, instead of being completely delirious. I also would not have infected my mother and left her with permanent scaring on her lungs.

But then that is me. I get the flu vaccine every year, not because I am hugely worried about catching the flu, but to help protect my elderly relatives from it. This is why John Labarge scores so highly in the “heartless bastard” stakes.

Or (and there is no doubt more difficult than anything involving vaccines) liars like you could try to educate themselves about the science, develop some understanding, and stop spreading misinformation and flat out falsehoods.

Of course, that would require you clowns to do some work and develop integrity, two things you’ve never shown any interest in.

Says the guy who throws nothing but insults. Sure. I’ve done enough research to know that the powers that be aren’t being forthcoming about the issues with these gene vaxxes and that’s enough for me and anyone not brainwashed by CNN to decline such jabs for now.

” I’ve done enough research”

What you’ve done is lie about the what the data says, lie about the efficiency of the vaccines, lie about the seriousness of covid itself.

Again, the comments aren’t insults: given your history they are accurate descriptions of your behavior. If you don’t like being identified as a liar and pusher of bullshit — stop lying and being a pusher of bullshit. (Again, that would require you to demonstrate a little integrity, which it seems you don’t have, and actually do some reading for comprehension, which you either are incapable of or are too lazy to do: that’s the only open question around you.)

johnlabarge: Exactly what do you mean by “traditional vaccines”? Do you mean particular vaccines, or particular techniques for creating them?

@Chris Preston

Anyone who opposes the mumps vaccine is a heartless bastard. I’m basing this 100% on my own experience with mumps. Why should I care that most children get through it just fine when there’s a vaccine? In fact if ALL children got through it fine, why make them suffer at all?

Dr. Rose recently put a piece about “hit pieces” on her substack, and I have a feeling that includes every debunking of her ill-supported claims. Part of what she considers “hit” is discussing her qualifications. For example, she wrote this. I’m not convinced.

“One hit-piece on me was an attempt to convince the audience that I am not qualified to assess epidemiological data. The claim was that since I only have a PhD in Computational Biology, that I have no right to data analysis claims. I mean, what could Computational Biology possibly have to do with data? What surprised me was that they failed to mention that I have a degree in Applied Mathematics. That kind of makes me qualified to speak about epidemiological data. In my degree program, they taught us how to build and use systems of ordinary differential equations using the SIR (Susceptibles (S), Infecteds (I), Recovereds (R)) model as a guide.”

In reality, if you do not want your claims countered, maybe publishing anti-vaccine misinformation isn’t for you, And expertise is relevant though Orac – and most debunkers – also always go in depth into the content of the claims – as here.

I don’t know about computational biology or what it entails, but this:

“What surprised me was that they failed to mention that I have a degree in Applied Mathematics. That kind of makes me qualified to speak about epidemiological data. In my degree program, they taught us how to build and use systems of ordinary differential equations using the SIR (Susceptibles (S), Infecteds (I), Recovereds (R)) model as a guide.”

That application was covered in my 2nd undergrad course in DE, but it was purely the mechanics of programming it, feeding input data and generating numerical solutions. Nothing about scope of applicability or anything else. If she’s just referring to seeing it in a math course her experience would likely be the same (but, as I said, I don’t know what her biology stuff entails: could it have been discussed there?)

IKR? I saw that post, referencing it at the very end, but it’s so wild that I might just have to do a post about it.

I like your meme where an anti-vaxxer said you can turn into Homer Simpson face if you get vaccinated with mRNA Vaccines. It’s funny yet crazy at the same time.

Jessica also has a Master’s degree – in science!

To be sure, her academic credentials look fairly solid, and her CV says she comes from an academically oriented family. But as we know, you can have a bunch of degrees and still have brain kinks that prevent you from demonstrating basic critical thinking capacity.

I wonder how many of her fellow computational biologists agree with her on Covid-19 vaccines and VAERS.


*Jessica is currently doing something or other on a fellowship from Lyons-Weiler’s IPAK group. It may be that the funding is shaky, since she’s appealing online to the kindness of strangers to make donations to the fellowship.
**speaking of academic orientation, it does not appear that Rose has an academic appointment presently; she is listed online as an “independent consultant”. It’s surprising that she has not been invited to be the Chair of VAERS somewhere.

To be sure, her academic credentials look fairly solid

At a first glance.

It took her 10 years to finish her undergraduate degree and 5 years for her Ph.D. Her M.Sc. was more timely.

For someone who started her Ph.D. in 2008, she has only 7 real publications (leaving aside her piece in Lyons-Weiler’s vanity journal) and one of those is a case series.

Most telling of her accomplishments is “Invited speaker on the Gary Null Radio Show”.

Hey now don’t knock the time table, some of us had to take years and semesters off to finish since we payed our way through undergrad. If anything, I think that going back and finishing their degree is a hell of a good thing, shows perseverance.

I’m going to guess Ms. Rose’s academic credentials are not the issue at all, that she’s had more than enough education in computational biology and applied mathematics to analyze the data correctly… if she didn’t have those brain kinks about vaccines. She’s doing the old motivated reasoning thing, finding what she and L-W want to find. I’ll wager whatever academic work she completed dealt with stuff she had no comparable emotional/psychological investment in, and she could handle that just fine.

Think about it: most of us have had encounters across gaps in credentials and competence. Say we took our best shot at something. That’s often not the end of it. Someone with more expertise is likely to come along, and say “close, but I see an error here, and another there.” Maybe we don’t rush to make changes right away. Maybe we go over the steps again in light of the critique, making sure we did indeed commit a flub, and making sure our more expert interloccutor is indeed correct about what we should have done. Then we fix the damn problem!! [ I just went through this process today with ceiling fans I discovered assembled improperly at the Habitat for Humanity site where I’ve been volunteering…] Same if we’re on the other end of expertise gap, pointing out errors on some normal thing to normal people (e.g students for those of us who teach). They fix it, don’t they?

But they’re not anti-vax conspiracy theorists working for celebrated and notorious cranks.

I’m going to guess Ms. Rose’s academic credentials are not the issue at all, that she’s had more than enough education in computational biology and applied mathematics to analyze the data correctly… if she didn’t have those brain kinks about vaccines.

You guessed wrong. Computational biology is an entirely different discipline than epidemiology. Ditto applied mathematics. If you’re going to analyze epidemiological data with that background, you’d better have an actual epidemiologist collaborate with you. None of this applies. Yes, she’s good at motivated reasoning, but you give her far too much credit.

Well, that’s my point: a normal semi-qualified person would either ask an epidemiologist to lend a hand or check the work, or would respond rationally when a critic with demonstrated chops in epidemiology pointed to errors. The only reason you don’t do any of those things is if you have one of those mental kinks, like thinking all the epidemiologists are part of the evil vaccine conspiracy!

I mean you could be the most qualified scientist who’s ever been qualificified, with more publications streaming out your arse by orders of magnitude than all the bloggers and Tweeting grad students with funny glasses who say “whoa there” to your latest COVID ‘study’ put together— and still be full of feces.

You, Orac, did not just go to ‘I’m more qualified than you so STFU’. You went into your usual detailed explanation of the problems with the studies Rose cited. I’m under the impression that’s how the science stuff is supposed to work. Maybe vaccine advocates (e.g. Dorit Reiss and Chris Preston) should avoid the rank hypocrisy of playing the qualification game when it suits them, and slagging it when it doesn’t.

I do agree with Chris on one thing though, the forums you choose, the people you hang with, (and who’s paying the bills) can be indicators that whatever your academic background and associated skills may be, they’ve been subverted to some agenda and/or ideology that is now driving the train.

It’s important, I think; to let readers know this bit of info. first. I am not a republican. I have received many vaccines in my life. My entire family has received vaccines, many of us have received covid vaccines. Almost all of us suffer from multiple autoimmune diseases. Rheumatoid/Osteoarthritis, Lupus, Crohn’s Disease, Psoriasis and some others; and several kinds of cancer.
I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to make the false claim that these covid vaccines do not contain/cause spike proteins, and to be sure, many people have not yet suffered any outward signs of trouble, in part at least, because many people have and will continue to get saline rather than the real vaccine, because they are part of the ‘control’ group. But I can no longer make the false claim that there is nothing wrong with these vaccines or other vaccines, because I have seen so many people, especially in the last year, suffer side effects from the covid vaccines that ‘just happen to’ line up with the symptoms that so MANY others have experienced after getting the shots. I have people in my family; and acquaintances who suffered ‘abnormal bleeding’ which required surgery; miscarriages six weeks after conception and a short time after getting the covid vaccines, sudden onset Atrial Fibrillation, neurological issues….I could go on.
So MANY of us; ESPECIALLY those of us who are not republicans, who proudly displayed our vaccine sites/Band-aids to our family members who are republican; smugly telling them how ‘nuts’ they were for not getting the covid shots because they are ‘silly conspiracy theorists’, are now no longer mocking them. Many of us are SO SICK; and in MANY cases; NO DOCTORS will HELP; they shrug off these serious effects, ALL of which came on SUDDENLY; within a week or so after getting vaccinated. It’s not funny to us any more.
The vast majority of people I hear complaining, and sometimes crying now; are liberal democrats; who JUMPED at the chance to be first in line to get the vaccines.
We all feel betrayed, duped, lied to. You think the shots don’t contain/cause spike proteins? How many people need to drop dead before you do believe it? How many people need to bleed; how many need to ‘suddenly’ develop myocarditis/pericarditis? YOUNG people. TEENAGERS, ALL VACCINATED. I mean; truly; WHAT has HAPPENED to us??
We can read a MILLION articles like Orac’s; but I guess we believe THIS over our own eyes. How pathetically ridiculous.

It’s not because you express hesitancy over vaccines. It’s because you spread longstanding disinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines.

Your entire comment above contains a number of common antivax talking points that predate the pandemic (autoimmune diseases, cancer, placebo, etc.), in addition to the usual nonsense about “gene therapy,” myocarditis, etc, about COVID-19 vaccines. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before more times than I can remember.

Cammie, re “ESPECIALLY those of us who are not republicans,” — odd how you imply these things hit people who are not republicans. If there were any validity to your list of complaints the most amazing thing would be the targeting of one party over another.

Tell us: were you prone to random bouts of capitalization in your writing before your shots or is that new too?

“We all feel betrayed, duped, lied to. You think the shots don’t contain/cause spike proteins?”

Of course I do. I’d have felt horribly duped if, after the vaccine makers assured me that RNA vaccines would cause my body to make enough spike proteins to assure a good immune response to SARS-CoV-2, it turned out that my ribosomes were turning out submicroscopic copies of flowers and kittens instead.


it turned out that my ribosomes were turning out submicroscopic copies of flowers and kittens instead

Photomicrographs, or it didn’t happen! 😀

Nope. I don’t believe any of this.

Because it is not believable. And it reeks of politics. These things are simply not happening. I mean all of us here are vaccinated and some of us live in countries with 80% of the population vaccinated and >95% over the age of 50 years, and we are simply not seeing any of this.

In my opinion, you are indeed an antivaxxer posing as pro-vaccine in order to more effectively spread misinformation about the vaccines and to contribute to vaccine hesitancy and refusal. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Nearly a million Americans – and over 5 million world wide – have died of COVID-19. They are are statistics that people like you have contributed to. Please re-assess your ethical responsibility towards your fellow human beings and stop misinforming them.

This is nothing more than disgusting antivax propaganada.


I’ve got anecdotes too.

I work in a hospital,where everyone on staff has had at least 2 doses of RNA Vaccine. Almost everyone I know has also had 2 doses of RNA vaccine. I haven’t encountered anyone who has had a serious reaction. The most common reactions have been a sore deltoid muscle and feeling crappy for a day or two. An occasional person has swollen axillary lymph nodes on the injected side. That’s it.

Your friends and family must be extremely unlucky. What other explanation could there be?

TBruce – the other explanation is that Cammie is an outright liar. They’re making it up.

“ I have people in my family; and acquaintances who suffered ‘abnormal bleeding’ which required surgery; miscarriages six weeks after conception and a short time after getting the covid vaccines, sudden onset Atrial Fibrillation, neurological issues….I could go on.”

Sorry. No sale. You are a RANK LIAR.

NONE of this is true. NONE.

How do I know? If what you were saying were true I’d have a line out the door of patients with side effects.

Rethink your life choices.

“You think the shots don’t contain/cause spike proteins”

What? I think that everyone here most certainly expects the shots to create spike proteins, it is, after all, the entire purpose and principle behind this type of vaccine.

@ Cammie

You link to a talk by Bayer’s Stefan Oelrich. From Bayer’s website: “After graduating from high school in Paris, France, he joined Bayer AG as a commercial trainee in 1989 and qualified as a commercial assistant in 1991.” So, a high school graduate trained in commerce with absolutely NO indication he understands immunology, molecular biology, etc. So, he can say whatever he wants, doesn’t make it valid. Being an administrator doesn’t mean one understands an iota of the science.

You write: “We all feel betrayed, duped, lied to. You think the shots don’t contain/cause spike proteins? How many people need to drop dead before you do believe it? How many people need to bleed; how many need to ‘suddenly’ develop myocarditis/pericarditis? YOUNG people. TEENAGERS, ALL VACCINATED. I mean; truly; WHAT has HAPPENED to us??”

Orac has written several articles on VAERS and I and others have written detailed comments. VAERS accepts what people “suspect” is causal relationship between vaccine and some negative outcome. All serious adverse events are researched by CDC staff. And you don’t understand Post Hoc Ergo Prompter Hoc, simply assuming that something that comes before something caused it. Given the 10s of millions of people who have received the COVID vaccines, especially senior citizens and/or those with comorbidities, not surprising that some will become ill, even die by chance after vaccine. For example, on average about 2,300 Americans have a heart attack every single day, so if any of them got vaccinated within, say, a couple of weeks before the heart attack, so what!

Either you haven’t been following this blog for long, thus, haven’t read Orac’s articles and mine and others comments, or you have a stick to your illogical unscientific beiief, despite what you claim your original position was.

At the end of her “My take on hit pieces” Jessica Rose says:

“If you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all”
Followed by her saying something nice about these guys:
“It is interesting that no one that I know who is called an anti-vaxxer is unvaccinated or against the concept of inoculation. One of my most admired colleagues Geert Vanden Bossche, is in fact, a world-renowned vaccinologist [HYPERBOLE]]. And Robert Malone is the guy who invented the mRNA tech [FALSE]”.

Apparently she likes to say nice things about those who have been creating vaccine hesitancy and refusal during a deadly pandemic even though they themselves are fully vaccinated. They have protected themselves BUT are doing their utmost to make sure their audience does not get that same protected. These are not nice guys. They are irresponsible monsters.

Anti vaxxers are a cult at this point. Everything gets tied to politics with these people. Also it always gets tied to violating against people’s religions too.

It would seem a relatively simple (as research in biology goes) matter to procure some specimens from autopsy of people who have been vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines and look for evidence of the spike protein DNA sequence. Sorting out whether the sequence has been integrated is more involved, but simply detecting its existence shouldn’t be a terribly difficult matter.

The discussion here denying the possibility of reverse transcription is purely hypothetical. Easy enough to test, isn’t it? All you have to do is sequence the DNA of children born to “vaccinated” parents. It should not be hard to find them. I look forward to your peer-reviewed study that backs up the hypothesis. I realize that this will be difficult for you to believe, but those of us who have family members who willingly subjected themselves to this massive (failed) experiment on the general population are hoping that the long-term data will show that there is no permanent harm. Unlike you, we demand evidence. Faith-based assertions and gaslighting aren’t gonna cut it.

You’ll have to go to the back of the queue. There are other important hypothetical questions ahead of you. Such as, a mission to the moon to delve below the regolith to find the hypothesized green cheese. Another is to conduct a study to finally and definitively resolve the hypothesis of 1 not being a prime number. Your turn will come, eventually, maybe.

All you have to do is sequence the DNA of children born to “vaccinated” parents.


Such a suggestion would be tossed by any competent IRB.

But, it is easier to demand useless and pointless activities are conducted, rather than doing the work to understand why these suggestions are useless and pointless.

It would be even more useless and pointless in your case, because unless the results agreed with your existing point of view, you would dismiss them out of hand.

Too bad it doesn’t…we could avoid all those pesky boosters you and labarge hate so much.

Reverse transcriptase…I thought you people said HIV is a totally “safe” virus. Make up your minds.

It is a vaccine,gene therapy is for fixing a geneti disease. Got that ?.
Orac actually mentioned a better test: show that spike protein irverse transcripted with inclusion into DNA even in a cell culture. It you are testing vaccines you should use realistic oncentrations and realistic cell model, too.

Meanwhile, away from Substack in the world of material power and policy, WaPo reports:

Florida’s governor and chief health official announced a new state policy Monday that will recommend against giving a coronavirus vaccine to healthy children, regardless of their age — a policy that flies in the face of recommendations by every medical group in the nation.

In other anti-vax news….

Over the past few days, it seems that the usual suspects’ “minds” have been occupied with fear mongering over the war/ economy with nuclear annihilation and worldwide famine/ inflation looming as the globalists plot world domination ( the Great Reset) so there is less reason for them to confabulate about the evils of vaccines BUT ( from Dr DG’s twitter) NN’s Ethan Huff managed: Germans are vaccinating refugee children who arrive from Ukraine!
Not only did they have to dodge bullets, planes and collapsing buildings but inescapable spike proteins are being directly injected into their arms! Huff labels German helpers Nazis of course.

I’ve observed over the years that alties seem to relish crises with which they can terrorise their followers giving them additional power over their enthralled supporters: if someone looks to you for health information, why not expand your realm and advise them about other avenues of life that worry them as well? NN and PRN supply advice about how to live in general: where to live, what careers to pursue, how to educate yourself and your children, what to invest in and how to deal with interpersonal relationships. They might have books or videos about these issues that they can profit from monetarily BUT I imagine that even when they don’t, they directly benefit from their followers’ fear and dependence. Prophets need suppliants.

In the Netherlands the antivax and covid minimising groups are now supporting the Russian point of view about the invasion in Oekraine.
Because of course Russia is a perfect democracy, with lots of freedom.

Same in the USA the Anti-Vaxxers supporting Russia is Fox News Host Tucker Carlson and his rants. This is the same group that radicalized Republican Governor’s about Door to Door Vaccine programs that started in Sacramento area as Nazi Germany. This is the crew siding with Putin in the USA

Ooops! That should be suppliCants.

I suppose I spoke too soon:
today’s Ranger Report integrates conspiracies about mass starvation, depopulation, war with Russia, globalist plots AND death by spike protein all into one vast, interwoven imbroglio of lies that manipulates his needy audience of disaster porn addicts. Alex Jones invites him to outline the future on InfoWars.

This is same thing as VAERS, these are side effects reported after vaccination, not necessary caused by it.
Do you know that you can claim conpensation for vaccine injury (CPIC) Why dont do that ? Compensation claims data is better start, you must file at least medical records.

You’d think that a “completely independent, grassroots movement” as Real Not Rare claims to be, would be more open about who organized and runs it. But that info is found nowhere on their website.

As befitting cranks, they did post a Crank Miranda Warning:

“Real Not Rare does not diagnose medical conditions, offer treatment advice, treat illnesses, or prescribe medicine or drugs. Anything contained on this website or conveyed in the blog stories or groups, is not substitute for adequate medical care, diagnosis, and/or treatment from a medical doctor. It is strongly recommended that prior to acting upon any information gleaned via Real Not Rare or their representatives, you at all times first consult a physician.”

[…] I’ve been writing about quackery and the antivaccine movement for over two decades, having blogged about these topics for well over 17 years here and 14 years at my not-so-secret other blog. During that unbelievably—to me—long time, I’ve learned a few things, not the least of which is, as readers no doubt get tired of me repeating since COVID-19 hit, that there is nothing new under the sun with respect to antivax quackery. To put it another way, everything old is new again. I have, of course, written about this in general and in specifics going back to even before the pandemic was officially declared a pandemic, but also in the context of individual antivax claims that have been resurrected, recycled, and given a fresh coat of COVID-19 paint in order to appear shiny and new. Examples include misuse of the VAERS database by antivaxxers to portray COVID-19 vaccines as deadly, as well as claims that vaccines sterilize our womenfolk (or even our girls before they go through puberty). So I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the resurrection of a form of antivaccine quackery commonly used to treat “vaccine-induced” autism back in the day. A decade or so ago, it was all the rage in antivax circles and was featured prominently across multiple years during the yearly antivaccine quackfest known as AutismOne, which was usually held at a hotel near O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. True, there are some seemingly new wrinkles based on the fact that the technology used in the first approved vaccines hadn’t been approved for use in vaccines before, but even the claim that the mRNA-based vaccines can “permanently alter your DNA” was not new (and seemingly won’t die). […]

Comments are closed.


Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading