A message from Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi, Office of the Chief Medical Officer
In the global response to COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have proven to be the most effective way to prevent severe disease and death. These vaccines help reduce the chance of the virus being passed along to other people. Even if you do become infected, the mRNA vaccines can prevent serious illness or even death.
It is important for people to know and understand that the mRNA vaccines do not—and cannot—change your DNA in any way. In fact, it is scientifically impossible.
Here is why.
What are “mRNA" vaccines?
Messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, is a molecule that provides your cells with instructions for making proteins. Specifically, the mRNA vaccines contain instructions for making a harmless version of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) spike protein.
As the name implies, this protein attaches itself to the surface of a cell like a little spike. Without it, viruses like COVID-19 would not be able to interact with humans and infect them.
You can think of the mRNA vaccine as a recipe that the cells in your body read in order to learn how to make the spike protein. Our immune system will detect the spike protein, recognize it does not belong in our bodies, and trigger an immune response.
An immune response is your body's built-in “alarm system." Your body believes it is under attack and begins to create antibodies to fight off what it thinks is an infection. It is not actually under attack—it is just the vaccine doing its job!
Your DNA will not change with mRNA vaccines
Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a molecule stored in your body's cells. DNA helps cells make proteins, which they need so you can live. It also passes on to your children, who can inherit many of your traits.
The COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is usually injected into the muscle of your upper arm so it can start doing its job. Once the spike protein is created, the contents of the vaccine are eliminated from your body in about two days. The actual mRNA content never enters your cells where your DNA is located. That is why it is impossible to alter your DNA with mRNA vaccines.
How did mRNA COVID-19 vaccines get developed so quickly?
Although mRNA vaccines are a relatively new technology in medicine, hundreds of scientists have been working on mRNA vaccines for more than 25 years—long before the coronavirus pandemic.
With the urgency of finding a vaccine to save lives, two international research groups were able to use previous knowledge of mRNA vaccines to develop vaccines for COVID-19 relatively quickly—about one year after the virus was discovered.
Are mRNA vaccines safe?
When comparing the risks of possible side effects of the vaccines versus the dangers of serious illness and death from COVID-19, the FNHA's Medical Officers join doctors around the world in recommending these vaccines. In fact, all FNHA Medical Officers have been fully vaccinated themselves.
The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are held to the highest standards for safety, effectiveness, and quality, as are all vaccines authorized for use in Canada.
Since they were approved in December 2020, these vaccines have been continuously monitored by Health Canada—and by similar bodies globally. The very small number of people who experience a side effect (also called an “adverse event") are encouraged to report it to their health care provider.
As of Nov. 26, 2021, there have been nearly 60 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered across Canada, with just over 6,400 serious adverse events reported. This means that for every 10,000 people who get a COVID-19 vaccine, one person has reported a serious adverse event.
A serious adverse event is defined as a reaction to the vaccine that is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Many serious adverse events are treatable. Some of these reported side effects—such as the risk of blood clots—are more likely to develop and pose far greater health risks for unvaccinated people.
Since the start of the pandemic, over 1.8 million Canadians have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and almost 30,000 people have died of the infection. In BC, we have had over 220,000 cases and over 2,300 deaths. The risk from COVID-19 disease is much higher than the risk of adverse events.
If you'd like to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines, you can read our regularly updated FAQs, or watch our “Talk to a Doc" videos on YouTube where we discuss common questions about the vaccines.
Do you need to get vaccinated?
It is important that people age five and older get their first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as boosters when they are offered.
To register for a vaccine clinic, visit: gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated.html.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines see: fnha.ca/vaccine.
Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine
There is now a limited supply of Janssen vaccine in BC. This is a single-dose vaccine that does not use mRNA technology; one dose qualifies the recipient as fully vaccinated under all Provincial Health Officer's orders that require vaccination, including for employment or for the BC Vaccine Card.
If this is the vaccine you want, please call 1-833-838-2323 and inform the agent that your preference is to receive the Janssen vaccine and you can be added to the list for this vaccine.