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COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not cause the body to continuously generate spike proteins in children or adults.
Spike proteins produced by the body through vaccination are not infectious.
On Oct. 29, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. In anticipation of this announcement, an Instagram post warned parents that children who receive COVID-19 vaccinations will become "walking factories of spike proteins" and "cause illnesses to spread like wildfire in schools."
We have previously fact-checked other claims about the safety of the spike protein that the COVID-19 vaccine instructs the body to generate in order to trigger an immune response. Each of these fact-checks concluded that there is no evidence that spike proteins are toxic or pose any serious health risk. We were curious if this still applies to younger age groups.
There is also no evidence to support the claim that the COVID-19 vaccine causes the body to continuously produce infectious spike bodies in children.
COVID-19 is more likely to spread in schools when children are not vaccinated.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook, which owns Instagram.)
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines function similarly in children as they do in adults. The vaccine delivers instructions, or mRNA, to the body on how to make the spike protein that the COVID-19 virus uses to bind to cells. When a cell receives these instructions, it creates and displays the spike protein on its surface like a flag. Exposing the immune system to this flag primes it to recognize the spike protein on the COVID-19 virus and mount an attack. Spike proteins produced by the body's cells are harmless and do not cause illness or infection.
"Since our cells are continuously producing proteins, mRNA is broken down fairly quickly by normal body processes," said Dr. Hank Bernstein, pediatrician and member of the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice, in a video for the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
After mRNA degrades, it can no longer instruct the body to produce spike proteins.
Though the vaccine dosage for children ages 5 to 11 is a third of that given to those 12 and up, data from the Pfizer study shows that its vaccine is 90.7% effective at preventing COVID-19, with similar safety levels and side effects as older age groups.
Children may be less likely to die from COVID-19, but they are not immune to infection. There have been over 1.9 million COVID-19 cases in U.S. children ages 5 to 11. As of the week ending Oct. 21, 2021, U.S. children comprised a quarter of reported weekly COVID-19 cases. COVID-19 has also been among the top 10 leading causes of death for U.S. children in 2021.
An Instagram post claims that children who receive COVID-19 vaccinations "will be walking factories of spike proteins" that will "undoubtedly cause illnesses to spread like wildfire in schools."
The spike proteins generated by the body through vaccination are neither infectious nor continuously generated in children and adults.
We rate the claim False.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, News release about COVID-19 emergency use for children ages 5 to 11, October 29, 2021
Instagram post, October 24, 2021
PolitiFact, No proof for researcher claim that COVID-19 vaccines’ spike protein is a ‘toxin’, June 7, 2021
PolitiFact, No sign that the COVID-19 vaccines’ spike protein is toxic or ‘cytotoxic’, June 16, 2021
PolitiFact, No sign spike proteins from COVID-19 vaccines, including Novavax, are dangerous, June 17, 2021
npj Vaccines, Distinguishing features of current COVID-19 vaccines: knowns and unknowns of antigen presentation and modes of action, August 16, 2021
PolitiFact, No, mRNA vaccines don't send the immune system into 'perpetual overdrive.', March 15, 2021
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines, Updated October 18, 2021
Infectious Diseases Society of America, Vaccines FAQ, September 16, 2021
Patient Safety in Surgery, The safety of Covid-19 mRNA vaccines: a review, May 1, 2021
Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, What Stops the Body from Continuing to Produce the COVID-19 Spike Protein after Getting an mRNA Vaccine?, March 16, 2021
Pfizer, Announcement on COVID-19 vaccine trial results for children ages 5 to 11, September 20, 2021
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting, October 26, 2021
PolitiFact, Ask PolitiFact: Children are far less likely to die from COVID-19. Why do they need vaccination?, October 27, 2021
American Academy of Pediatrics, Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report, Updated October 25, 2021
Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation Health System Tracker, COVID-19 continues to be a leading cause of death in the U.S. in September 2021, October 13, 2021
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brief on COVID-19 transmission in K-12 schools, Updated July 9, 2021
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