mRNA vaccine cannot transfer through meat consumption
Articles and social media posts claim people can inadvertently receive messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines by eating meat from inoculated farm animals. This is false; experts say that is not how mRNA vaccines work, and there are no such shots approved for livestock in the US.
"The mRNA vaccines are being injected into livestock and companion animals," says an article published January 13, 2023. "That means, if you consume the vaccinated animal, the mRNA vaccine enters your body."
The claims are attributed to Robert Malone, a physician who in the late 1980s contributed to the development of mRNA vaccines. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, however, he has repeatedly promoted misinformation about vaccination.
Natural News, an alternative health website whose Facebook page was banned in 2019 for violating spam rules, published another article about livestock and vaccines on January 16. Similar claims have circulated widely on Twitter.
But they are false.
"In livestock, there are no mRNA vaccines that are used in the United States," said Jessica Gordon, a cattle veterinarian and associate professor at Michigan State University, in a January 25 email.
The Center for Veterinary Biologics at the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Center told AFP that, as of January 2023, it did "not have any vaccines approved or under trial to vaccinate livestock for Covid-19."
AFP previously debunked a claim that Australian farmers were "forced to inject livestock with deadly mRNA vaccines."
Vaccination does not pass through meat
Livestock in the US are mostly vaccinated for diseases that are not communicable to people, Gordon said.
"There is a bit more potential transfer of disease between humans and chickens or pigs as they are more similar to us. A good example would be avian or swine flu," she said. "There are vaccines used in livestock for these diseases but none in commercial use are mRNA-based."
While there is ongoing research on using mRNA vaccines in some animals, Gordon said "none of these animals or their products enter the food chain." And even if they did, that mRNA would not pass to those who eat meat.
"There is no scientific basis for the claim that if someone was to consume meat or other tissues from an animal that had been vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine, it would enter their body," Timothy Mahony, a professorial research fellow at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation's Centre for Animal Science in Australia, told AFP on January 25.
He said the digestive tract is "designed to break down the large molecules in our food" -- including DNA, proteins and carbohydrates -- "so we can absorb them."
Mahony added: "All of our food from living cells contains mRNA -- so we consume them all the time."
mRNA is safe
Because mRNA technology differs from traditional vaccines, it has been the subject of many false claims since the US Food and Drug Administration authorized its use.
Instead of injecting weakened or dead forms of the coronavirus to create an immune response, the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna deliver instructions to cells on how to build a piece of the virus's spike protein. After creating the protein, cells can then recognize and fight the coronavirus if infected.
Although Covid-19 shots are the first to use mRNA technology, research began in the early 1990s and included promising tests on animals.
Medical experts and public health authorities say mRNA vaccines are safe. Experts have repeatedly said the spike protein does not stay in the body.
"The mRNA in mRNA Covid-19 vaccines is broken down by the body within a few hours of vaccination," the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told AFP in a January 23 statement. "If mRNA Covid-19 vaccines are given to livestock animals, they would not be present in animal products at the time of consumption."
More of AFP Fact Check's reporting on vaccines can be found here.