Fact check: False claim about mandatory mRNA vaccines, deaths in Australian cattle

  • In Health
  • 2022-11-02 17:33:02Z

The claim: Cattle in Australia are required to get an mRNA vaccine, some have died

The New South Wales government is partnering with U.S. biotechnology company Tiba Biotech to fast-track mRNA vaccines for Lumpy Skin Disease and Foot and Mouth Disease, according to a Sept. 28 press release. Both illnesses have the potential to be devastating for Australia's $28.7 billion livestock industry.

A viral Instagram post claims mRNA vaccines are already mandatory for the country's cattle - and with disastrous effects.

"A friend informed me today that her neighbor, a dairy farmer, is now forced to vaccinate her herd with an mRNA vaccine!" reads part of the Oct. 1 Instagram post. "She complied and of the 200 herd of cattle, 35 died instantly!"

The post goes on to claim that mRNA vaccines alter DNA and therefore the milk produced by vaccinated cattle is also altered. The post garnered more than 400 likes.

These claims are not true, though.

There are no mandatory vaccinations for cattle in New South Wales, and mRNA vaccines are still in development, according to the state government. And officials have received no reports of any cattle dying from other vaccines.

In addition, mRNA vaccines do not alter the DNA of humans or animals, experts say.

USA TODAY reached out to several users who shared the post for comment.

No livestock vaccine mandates in New South Wales

The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries addressed the claim about mandatory cattle vaccines in an Oct. 4 Facebook post, saying it "has not mandated the use of any vaccine in livestock."

The mRNA vaccines for Lumpy Skin Disease and Foot and Mouth Disease are still in the development stage, according to a Sept. 28 press release. The government is challenging the vaccine manufacturers to have the inoculations ready for use by August 2023.

"It is critical that we develop mRNA vaccines for FMD and Lumpy Skin as quickly as possible to protect our State's livestock sector," Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said in the press release.

There has been no indication from the government that these vaccines will be required for cattle, though.

And there are no reports of deaths from the non-mRNA vaccines available for livestock in Australia. A spokesperson from the NSW Department of Primary Industries told USA TODAY in an emailed statement the agency has received no reports of cattle deaths as a result of any vaccination.

Vaccines do not alter DNA

The COVID-19 pandemic threw a spotlight on mRNA vaccines, though the technology has existed for several years.

Despite its similar name, mRNA vaccines do not alter DNA.

"These vaccines do not enter the nucleus of the cell where our DNA - genetic material - is located, so it cannot change or influence our genes," reads a section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

The mRNA vaccines act more like an instruction manual, said Frank LoVecchio, the medical director of clinical research at the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University.

Unlike other kinds of vaccines, mRNA inoculations do not contain dead pieces of the virus, explained LoVecchio. Instead, they teach the body how to code for specific proteins. When a person or animal contracts the virus, their body can immediately start producing antibodies to fight the infection.

"Would the body normally do that? Yes of course," said LoVecchio. "The vaccine makes it happen more efficiently."

There is also little concern about mRNA vaccines being passed on to someone through the consumption of meat or milk, according to experts.

"mRNA vaccines are much less concerning in this regard anyway than say classical inactivated virus-based vaccines," said Pall Thordarson, the director of the University of New South Wales RNA Institute. "For the latter, you could find those inactive virus particles in meat or milk for perhaps weeks in some cases. In the case of mRNA it ... breaks down very quickly - we are talking a matter of days at most."

Thordarson said the regulatory authorities in Australia "would not allow any animal product to be sold until they were certain that the vaccines have been cleared from the animal."

Even if someone did ingest elements of a vaccine, he said, the particles would be destroyed in the stomach by gastric juices.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim cattle in Australia are required to get an mRNA vaccine, and some have died. The New South Wales government said it has not made any vaccines mandatory for cattle, and mRNA vaccines are still in development. It has received no reports of any cattle deaths from other types of vaccinations, a spokesperson for the department said.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim about vaccine deaths in Australian cattle


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