While most Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, many others are still holding out, for a variety of reasons. Some are waiting to see if the approved vaccines lead to any serious adverse side effects, while others are skeptical of the COVID-19 pandemic’s seriousness. And at least a few people are refusing the vaccine because of online speculation that the Moderna vaccine was made with the “luciferase” enzyme.
A viral Facebook post from March spread the belief that luciferase is in the Moderna vaccine, and is part of a government plot to put a “barcode or imprint or pattern to I.D.” recipients. Other posts have tied luciferase to the devil, given the enzyme name’s similarity to Lucifer. Such posts were spread by a number of influential figures, including Newsmax’s White House correspondent.
To explain, we need a little science lesson. Luciferase is an enzyme that produces light. It’s what makes fireflies and some deep sea fish glow. Scientists do find luciferase useful in research for tracking the movement of cells, which is why they used it in studying the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine — to see how the virus interacted with cells. You can read more on luciferase’s use in vaccine development here, but the important thing to note is that it used to study the vaccine’s effects on lab rats in some preclinical trials; not in the vaccine itself.
So, no, the vaccine does not contain luciferase and, even if it did, that would not be a satanic dog whistle. Luciferase may assist scientists in tracking microscopic organisms, but it wouldn’t help a government entity track you. Of course, the government can already monitor you, vaccinated or otherwise, using things like smartphone data and social media use. That’s a real concern, and one that’s been extensively covered by mainstream outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post, but it’s not linked to vaccines.
There is so much information in the wind about the vaccine — must of it difficult to verify — that it’s pretty easy to just choose which “facts” conform most comfortably with your priors. But as always, just because you read something online doesn’t make it true (that goes for this article as well, which is why we always include links), and doing your own research means hearing from actual experts — not just convenient memes.