A viral claim suggesting that Pfizer vaccine could cause neurological damage is found to be a hoax. The claim originated after immunologist J. Bart Classen mentioned in his study that Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine can induce prion-based disease in its recipients.
Ever since the work on the vaccine to fight the global pandemic began, it has been engulfed in a series of conspiracies.
What is Prion Disease?
According to the Center for Disease Control, prion diseases are "a family of rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders that affect both humans and animals."
It also classifies prions as "abnormal, pathogenic agents that are transmissible and are able to induce abnormal folding of specific normal cellular proteins called prion proteins that are found most abundantly in the brain."
"[T]he abnormal folding of the prion proteins leads to brain damage and the characteristic signs and symptoms of the disease," states CDC.
mRNA Capable of Causing Neurological Damage?
Classen's study, titled COVID-19 RNA Based Vaccines and the Risk of Prion Disease, was published in a journal, Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.
For his study, Classen evaluated Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for the potential to induce prion-based disease in vaccine recipients. "The current RNA based SARSCoV-2 vaccines were approved in the US using an emergency order without extensive long term safety testing," the study read.
Adding that vaccine is capable of causing ALS, front temporal lobar degeneration, Alzheimer's disease and other neurological degenerative diseases in its recipients, the author said, "the regulatory approval of the RNA based vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 was premature and that the vaccine may cause much more harm than benefit."
Researchers Debunk Classen's Claim About mRNA vaccine
Calling Classen an anti-vaxxer, Snopes, a fact checking website said that he operates the website "vaccines.net," on which he had suggested that "the current outbreak of COVID-19 is actually a bioweapon attack and may be linked to the US anthrax attack of 2001, which originated from the US army base Fort Detrick."
In an email to the outlet, Robert Garry, a virologist at Tulane University and an expert in the molecular mechanisms of viral pathogenesis, said that Classen offers no statistical analysis to show that these occur more frequently in the sequence derived from the SARS-CoV-2 spike gene.
"The body is filled with RNA. Dr. Classen has not demonstrated by any stretch of the imagination that the sequences in the Pfizer vaccine are special or unexpected beyond anything that occurs purely by chance," added Garry who was also involved in the vaccine development.
Questioning the authenticity of the journal "Microbiology and Infectious Diseases," Jacob Yount, associate professor in the Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity at Ohio State University, called it "a so-called predatory journal." In an email to The Dispatch Fact Check , Yount said that the strategy of proposing a far-fetched negative consequence of the COVID vaccines long into the future without evidence or data is calculated dishonesty.
Stating that Classen study "seems to be based on gibberish presented in a seemingly scientific manner," Yount said that mRNA vaccines have a longer history of testing in humans that started several years before the COVID vaccines, and these past vaccines were found to be safe and have not resulted in prion disease.
Terming Classen's study "flawed", Vincent Racaniello, professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, told the outlet that the study is a theoretical exercise in which Classen assesses if the mRNA vaccine can convert cell proteins to prion conformations. "The exercise is completely speculative and flawed and no conclusions can be drawn from this study. Hence the claims on social media are completely wrong as they are based on a flawed study from which no conclusions can be made," Racaniello stated in the email.