Fact Check: COVID-19 vaccines are not operating systems designed to program humans; do not contain fetal cells


Reported in Facebook’s efforts to combat the online spread of disinformation, articles claim that the COVID-19 vaccines currently administered in the United States are in fact operating systems designed to program those who receive them and that the doses contain human fetal cells. Both of these statements are false.

A person passes a syringe to another person during a mass vaccination against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mexico City, Mexico on February 24, 2021. REUTERS / Carlos Jasso

An almost 14-minute video making these claims can be found on Facebook here. At the time of this article’s publication, one post of the video had received more than 500 shares.


As explained here in a previous Reuters fact check, false claims that the COVID-19 vaccine is an “operating system” designed to program humans and hack their biological functions (seen here, here) may have come from a literal interpretation of the pharmaceutical company Moderna. analogue explanation of how its COVID-19 mRNA vaccine works, as seen here on its website.

On its website, Moderna compares the mRNA technology used in its vaccine to an “operating system,” using the term in a metaphorical sense, not a literal sense. According to Moderna, the science of mRNA is like an operating system because it can be used to fight several different diseases.

“Recognizing the vast potential of mRNA science, we set out to create an mRNA technology platform that functions much like an operating system on a computer,” the website says. “It’s designed to be able to plug in and play interchangeably with different programs. In our case, the “program” or “application” is our drug mRNA – the unique mRNA sequence that codes for a protein. “

Reuters explainer comparing COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech (here) says both vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which contains instructions for human cells to make proteins that mimic part of the coronavirus. The instructions prompt the immune system to act, turning the body into a factory for virus vaccines. No real virus is contained in vaccines.

In contrast, the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca is not an mRNA vaccine but rather a “viral vector vaccine”. In AstraZeneca’s photo, a specially designed virus that normally causes the common cold in chimpanzees provides genetic instructions to human cells to push the spike protein out of the surface of the coronavirus (here).


In the video on Facebook, the man can be heard around 2:50 p.m. saying, “This is why you have to have fetal cells from aborted babies – it has to be a component of the so-called ‘vaccine.’ “

Cloned fetal cells (not fetal tissue) are sometimes used in the process of developing, confirming, or producing vaccines – including the COVID-19 vaccine (here, here). As explained by UK drug regulator bit.ly/3kmmmdV and in an article published in the journal Nature bit.ly/3kj29pn, the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 requires so-called HEK (human embryonic kidney) cells to grow the virus. used to make the vaccine. The Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are not made from human cells, but have been used in vaccine testing.

HEK cells are not fetal cells from recent abortions, but cell lines derived from decades-old fetal cells (more on that here).

None of the finished COVID-19 vaccines contain true HEK cells (here, here), so it is not correct to describe them as a component of the vaccine.


False. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are not literal operating systems designed to program humans. The COVID-19 vaccines produced by AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech do not contain embryonic cells or tissues.

This article was produced by the Reuters fact-checking team. Read more about our work to check out social media posts here.


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