Fact Check: COVID-19 Vaccine mRNA and Spike Protein Are Not Cleared ‘Within Days’

Claims from faux “fact checkers” that COVID-19 vaccine mRNA and spike protein are cleared from the body “within days” are false.

FACT CHECK

CLAIM: “The mRNA in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is broken up by the body within a few days.” “The COVID‑19 vaccines cause the body to produce a small amount of spike protein, which is cleared within days, to prompt an immune response. There is no evidence that the spike protein causes damage to cells at these levels.”

VERDICT: FALSE

Introduction

Asupposed “fact check” article from Health Feedback, which generates content used by other media outlets and social media companies to suppress certain information about COVID‑19 vaccines, claims that the mRNA from mRNA COVID‑19 vaccines is rapidly broken down and eliminated from the body “within days” of vaccination. Similarly, the self-described “fact checker” claims that the spike protein generated by these pharmaceutical products is eliminated from the body “within days”.

The article, for which there is no author attributed but which was edited by Health Feedback Science Editor Ian Le Guillou, is titled “Following COVID‑19 vaccination, the spike protein is produced in small quantities in the body without causing harm and is cleared naturally within days”.

The Health Feedback article acknowledges that studies have shown that the spike protein of SARS‑CoV‑2, the coronavirus that causes COVID‑19, is by itself pathogenic; but the article argues that since the amount of spike protein that circulates following vaccination is so small and so rapidly eliminated, it cannot cause harm.

The Health Feedback article was a response to a claim from The Epoch Times that the spike protein “is harmful to the human body in at least eight different ways” and “can persist in the human body for weeks, or even months, after a person gets vaccinated”. The supposed “fact checker” organization rates that claim as “Misleading”.

However, those statements from The Epoch Times are in fact supported by scientific evidence that falsifies Health Feedback’s counterclaims.

The Spike Protein Is Not Harmless

Numerous studies have indicated that the spike protein of SARS‑CoV‑2 by itself, in the absence of whole viable virus, can have pathogenic and toxic effects. The following are some notable examples.

study in Neurobiology of Disease in October 2020 found that the spike protein promotes loss of blood-brain barrier integrity and triggers an inflammatory response in brain endothelial cells.

study in Vaccines in January 2021 noted that the pathogenicity of the spike protein is a relevant concern for COVID‑19 vaccines since the mRNA vaccines are designed to instruct human cells to produce the spike protein of the coronavirus.

study in Circulation Research in March 2021 showed that the spike protein alone can damage vascular endothelial cells.

This study was cited by The Epoch Times to support its claim that the spike protein by itself is harmful, which Health Feedback attempted to rebut by noting that the research was done in hamsters using an engineered pseudovirus, which is incapable of intracellular replication, and was not a study of the effects of the spike protein in humans following vaccination. The study was “never designed to look at the toxicity of the spike protein after vaccination”, Health Feedback correctly notes.

Health Feedback also cites Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine developer with Baylor College of Medicine, correctly observing that the study “looks at cellular mechanisms of how viral spike protein works, not the immune response from a vaccine.”

study in The FASEB Journal in May 2021 found that the spike protein induces acute lung injury in mice genetically engineered to express the ACE2 receptor, which is the receptor on certain human cells that enables the coronavirus via the spike protein to fuse with and enter the cells where it then replicates.

study in Clinical Infectious Diseases in May 2021 showed that the spike protein induced by Moderna’s mRNA COVID‑19 vaccine circulates throughout the body.

That study was also cited by The Epoch Times. According to Health Feedback, the study showed that only “trace amounts of spike protein can enter the bloodstream following vaccination”, and the subjects in the study “quickly developed antibodies that removed it from the bloodstream.”

The authors of a paper published on the preprint website Authorea in May 2021 expressed concern that government authorities were minimizing or ignoring concerns about the potential toxicity and pathogenicity of the spike protein induced by vaccination. (A preprint study is one that has not yet undergone peer review.)

Ironically, Dr. Peter Hotez, whom Health Feedback cites to support its argument that the spike protein induced by vaccination is harmless, was among the authors of a study published in the journal Circulation in July 2021 noting that mRNA COVID‑19 vaccines can cause myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, and hypothesizing that this might be due to some individuals’ immune response to either vaccine mRNA or the vaccine-induced spike protein.

As Hotez and his coauthors wrote:

Myocardidits has been recognized as a rare complication of coronavirus disease (COVID‑19) mRNA vaccinations, especially in young adults and adolescent males. . . . Although the mechanisms for development of myocarditis are not clear, molecular mimicry between the spike protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS‑CoV‑2) and self-antigens, trigger of preexisting dysregulated immune pathways in certain individuals, immune response to mRNA, and activation of immunologic pathways, and dysregulated cytokine expression have been proposed.

Elaborating on the potential role of vaccine mRNA in vaccine-related myocarditis cases, they observed that “in certain individuals with genetic predisposition, the immune response to mRNA may not be turned down and may drive the activation of an aberrant innate and acquired immune response.”

Contradicting the claim for which Health Feedback cites Hotez, he and his colleagues remarked, “The immune system may therefore detect the mRNA in the vaccine as an antigen, resulting in activation of proinflammatory cascades and immunologic pathways that may play a role in the development of myocarditis as part of a systemic reaction in certain individuals.”

Another mechanism by which mRNA COVID‑19 vaccines might cause myocarditis is a cross-reactive autoimmune response to the spike protein. As they elaborated, “Another important potential mechanism for myocarditis is molecular mimicry between the spike protein of SARS‑CoV‑2 and self-antigens. Antibodies against SARS‑CoV‑2 spike glycoproteins have been experimentally shown to cross-react with structurally similar human peptide protein sequences . . . .”

COVID‑19 vaccination, they hypothesized, “may trigger preexisting dysregulated pathways in certain individuals with predisposition, resulting in a polyclonal B‑cell expansion, immune complex formation, and inflammation.”

Health Feedback’s headline claim that the mRNA from COVID‑19 vaccines and the spike protein induced by vaccination are known to be harmless is thus contradicted by its own source.

study published at the preprint server bioRxiv in July 2021 found an association between “Long Covid” and persistence of the spike protein in the absence of persistence of whole viable virus, once again indicating that the spike protein alone is pathogenic.

study in Viruses in October 2021 found that the spike protein can enter the nucleus of cells and inhibit DNA damage repair. The authors noted that this finding was relevant for mRNA COVID‑19 vaccines since they are designed to elicit human cells to produce the spike protein.

study in the Journal of Immunology in November 2021 found that the spike proteins induced by the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID‑19 vaccine are carried by extracellular vesicles called exosomes and circulate throughout the body, which helps to explain the blood antibody response elicited by vaccination.

study in Clinical Science in December 2021 tested the hypothesis that the spike protein “may act as a ligand to induce non-infective cellular stress”. They showed that exposure to the spike protein alone “elicited signalling and functional alterations”, including “secretion of pro-inflammatory molecules typically involved in the cytokine storm” and “production of pro-apoptotic factors” causing endothelial cell death.

Health Feedback briefly notes this study by saying that it “showed that the spike protein can affect heart cells in the lab, but they used higher amounts of the protein than those found in COVID‑19 patients.”

Nevertheless, the study did demonstrate a biologically plausible mechanism by which blood clots could occur with SARS‑CoV‑2 infection or vaccination.

study at bioRxiv on December 2021 showed that the SARS‑CoV‑2 spike protein by itself promoted platelet activation, which the authors suggested was “a pathogenic mechanism to explain thrombosis associated to COVID‑19 lung disease, by which Spike present in SARS‑CoV‑2 virions or exposed on the surface of infected cells, leads to platelet stimulation and subsequent activation of the coagulation cascade.” (Emphasis added.)

That study was also cited by The Epoch Times, to which Health Feedback responded by noting that the researchers “studied the mechanisms for formation of blood clots, showing that spike protein can activate platelets in the lab but they did not establish if this happened at concentrations found in patients or vaccinated people.”

commentary in Clinical Science on March 29 of this year summarized the state of knowledge about the pathogenicity of the spike protein alone:

The SARS‑CoV‑2 virus that results in COVID‑19 has been found to damage multiple organs beyond the lung. Interestingly, the SARS‑CoV‑2 spike (S) protein can be found circulating in the blood of COVID‑19 patients. Experimental findings are demonstrating that the circulating S protein can bind to receptors resulting in inflammation and cell, tissue, and organ damage. . . . These findings support the notion that circulating SARS‑CoV‑2 S protein could contribute to cardiovascular disease independent of viral infection.

In sum, the statement from The Epoch Times that there are numerous mechanisms by which the spike protein of SARS‑CoV‑2 alone can cause harm is supported by scientific evidence. Health Feedback does not dispute this but instead argues that these findings are irrelevant to mRNA COVID‑19 vaccines on the premise that the spike protein induced by vaccination is present only in “trace amounts” and “is cleared within days”.

However, the supposed “fact check” organization provides no evidence to support its counterclaim that the spike protein induced by vaccination is harmless by virtue of the amount produced.

Also, scientists examining the potential effects of the spike protein alone on human health have in fact expressed concern in the literature that findings relevant for SARS‑CoV‑2 infection are also relevant for mRNA COVID‑19 vaccines designed to elicit production of the spike protein.

Such scientists include Health Feedback’s own source Dr. Peter Hotez, who coauthored a paper hypothesizing that the immune response of certain individuals to either vaccine mRNA or the spike protein could explain observations of myocarditis following vaccination.

Furthermore, Health Feedback’s claim that both the mRNA and spike protein are eliminated from the body “within days” after vaccination has been shown to be false.

COVID‑19 Vaccine mRNA and Spike Protein Can Persist in the Body for Months

The mRNA COVID‑19 vaccines are designed to work by delivering messenger RNA (mRNA) encoding the spike protein of SARS‑CoV‑2 into the cells so that the cells will use the genetic material to produce the spike protein. Since the mRNA would otherwise be rapidly broken down before having a chance to enter the cells, it is encapsulated inside of a lipid nanoparticle.

Health Feedback argues that since the mRNA from COVID‑19 vaccines is quickly degraded, the cells will only produce spike protein for a very short time; the concentration of spike protein therefore does not exceed “trace amounts”, and the spike protein, too, is rapidly eliminated.

The spike protein “is barely detectable in the bloodstream of vaccinated people for a few days”, the organization claims.

However, this again is contradicted by Health Feedback’s own sources.

According to the “fact checker”, the study in Clinical Infectious Diseases showed that, among thirteen people who had received the Moderna vaccine, “The S1 region of the spike protein could be detected a day after the first vaccine dose, peaking at five days and becoming undetectable after nine days.” After vaccination, “trace amounts of spike protein appeared in the samples and the volunteers quickly developed antibodies that removed it from the bloodstream.”

Immediately after so characterizing that study, Health Feedback asserts, “The mRNA in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is broken up by the body within a few days. This means that no more spike protein is produced after this point. The immune response quickly targets the spike protein present in the body and any remaining would be degraded like other proteins. The spike protein would not last months in the body, as The Epoch Times claimed.”

Intriguingly, the Clinical Infectious Diseases study was the first, according to its authors, to investigate whether the mRNA COVID‑19 vaccines succeeded in causing the cells to generate the SARS‑CoV‑2 spike protein as intended. Up until that point, this had only been inferred based on observations that vaccination resulted in production of anti-spike antibodies. However, “critical data demonstrating the direct production of spike protein” from vaccination with Moderna’s product were “missing”.

This means that three months after the FDA first issued its emergency use authorization for Moderna’s COVID‑19 vaccine, studies had not actually proven that the product caused cells to produce the spike protein, much less having demonstrated the vaccine-induced spike to be harmless as claimed by Health Feedback—which describes the study vaguely as having been “designed to use highly sensitive techniques to test whether the vaccines worked as planned.”

Whereas Health Feedback cites this study as supporting its claim that the spike protein is eliminated “in a few days”, the study authors noted that spike protein was detectable in some individuals for more than two weeks. Moreover, in one participant, the spike protein was detected twenty-nine days after receipt of the first dose. Thus, the study supports the conclusion that the vaccine-induced spike protein can persist for weeks, as noted by The Epoch Times.

And while Health Feedback describes the researchers as having used highly sensitive techniques, the study authors noted that “spike protein concentrations in plasma of vaccinated participants may be below our assay limit of detection.” Another relevant study limitation was that participants were young, healthy adults, so their findings “may not be representative of the general population.”

The authors hypothesized the immune response to the spike protein leads to “direct killing of cells presenting spike protein” within days of vaccination, resulting in “an additional release of spike protein into the blood stream.”

This pertinent to the hypothesis presented in the December 2021 bioRxiv study that blood clots may result from the spike present being presented on the surface of cells, resulting in an inflammatory immune response in which those cells are attacked and destroyed by the immune system.

Health Feedback’s claim that the mRNA from COVID‑19 vaccines “is broken up by the body within a few days” is also contradicted by the hyperlinked source cited to support that statement, which is an article published in July 2021 by the health network Nebraska Medicine. That source in turn cites the Infectious Disease Society of America as having estimated “that the spike proteins that were generated by COVID‑19 vaccines last up to a few weeks”—not a few “days” as mischaracterized by Health Feedback.

Also, the primary source—which, again, is relied upon by Health Feedback to support its headline claim that scientists know that the spike protein is eliminated from the body “in a few days”—actually acknowledges it “is not known” how long the vaccine-induced spike protein lasts in the body, “but it is estimated to be a few weeks.” (No scientific literature was cited to support that estimation.)

Furthermore, other studies have shown that the duration of persistence of the spike protein can be measured not in mere weeks but months.

The authors of the study published in the Journal of Immunology in November 2021 observed “exosomes carrying spike protein” at two weeks since administration of the first dose of vaccine, and they observed persistence of spike protein at a time point of four months after the second dose of vaccines.

“The amount of SARS‑CoV‑2 spike protein in exosomes after 4 mo of both doses of vaccine was significantly decreased compared with day 14 after the second dose,” the authors commented—but it was still there, thus falsifying Health Feedback’s counterclaim that the vaccine-induced spike protein “would not last months in the body”.

Additionally, the authors of a study published in Cell in January of this year reported the finding of vaccine mRNA in the lymph nodes “on days 7, 16, and 37 postvaccination, with lower but still appreciable specific signal at day 60.” Similarly, they found “spike antigen still present as late as 60 days post-second dose.”

Health Feedback did not respond to a request for comment on its hypocritical dissemination of COVID‑19 vaccine misinformation.

Conclusion

Social media companies have partnered with self-described “fact check” organizations like Health Feedback to suppress information about COVID‑19 vaccines that does not align with “public health” officials’ policy goal of achieving high vaccine uptake. However, supposed “fact check” articles frequently result in censorship of truthful information and propagation of official lies, as illustrated with this faux “fact check” from Health Feedback falsely claiming that both the mRNA from the vaccines and the elicited spike protein are eliminated from the body “within days”.

In fact, the scientific evidence supports the statements from The Epoch Times that there are numerous mechanisms by which the SARS‑CoV‑2 spike protein alone, in the absence of a viral infection, “is harmful to the body”, and that the spike protein induced by vaccination “can persist in the human body for weeks, or even months, after a person gets vaccinated”.

Health Feedback’s headline claim that scientists know that the vaccine-induced spike protein is harmless is false. In fact, one of the sources the organization cites to support that claim, Dr. Peter Hotez, has coauthored a study hypothesizing that the vaccine-induced spike protein can be pathogenic at least in some individuals.

Another of the sources cited by the faux “fact checker”, far from demonstrating that scientists know that the spike protein is eliminated “in a few days”, acknowledged that scientists do not know how long it persists in vaccinated people, which illustrates how the whole premise of the Health Feedback article is an assumption. In essence, the counterclaims presented are not evidence-based statements but expressions of faith that the spike protein induced by these pharmaceutical products is incapable of causing harm.

Moreover, studies have falsified that underlying assumption made by Health Feedback, showing that both vaccine mRNA and vaccine-induced spike protein can persist in vaccinated people for months and not mere days.

In conclusion, the Health Feedback article, far from educating the public about the science, is nothing more than vaccine propaganda; and far from correcting false claims, it is the faux “fact check” organization itself that is hypocritically spreading misinformation about COVID‑19 vaccines.

This is just another illustration of how the mainstream media choose to do policy advocacy rather than journalism when it comes to the subject of vaccines, as well as how the media’s self-proclaimed “fact checkers” are themselves among the greatest purveyors of dangerous misinformation.