The COVID-19 vaccine and infertility misinformation

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Google searches for infertility and coronavirus vaccines increased by 34.900% after a medical couple filed a petition questioning Pfizer vaccine safety and efficacy data. Referring to the petition, anti-vaccine activists released claims that they misunderstood information regarding the possibility that the vaccine could impact fertility in women. At the height of interest, Google's search terms "infertility", "infertility AND vaccine" and "infertility AND COVID vaccine" recorded increases of 119,9%, 11,251% and 34,900%, respectively, over predicted values. Let's see what happened.

In this article

  • Infertility and the vaccine: what we know
  • You can get vaccinated without fear


Also Read: Do Vaccines Block Fertility?

Infertility and the vaccine: what we know

On December 7, 2022, an article was published on the Renovatio 21 website entitled "Vaccine and infertility, the problem may be real. The former Pfizer scientific director speaks". 

The article calls for the phase 3 clinical trial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be stopped. The petition is signed by Wolfgang Wodarg, doctor and politician of the German SPD party, and Michael Yeadon, scientific director of Pfizer's division on allergies and respiratory diseases until 2022 and today an independent consultant, already known for spreading pseudoscientific theories on the pandemic. 

The article emphasizes the possibility that the vaccine can cause infertility. Vaccinations are expected to produce antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. However, spike proteins also contain proteins homologous to sincitina, which are essential for the formation of the placenta in mammals such as humans'. According to the article, it should therefore be ensured that the vaccine does not cause an immune response against syncytin, under penalty of permanent infertility of the vaccinated women. 

The article reads: "Returning to the issue of fertility, vaccine damage would be devastating for the population, decimating entire generations of the unborn, a nightmare world in which women have become sterile, as in the apocalyptic novel / film I Sons some men."

The loosely represented information spread quickly across social media channels, potentially influencing public perception and decision-making among pregnant patients or those seeking pregnancy, according to research published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine. This came despite the fact that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use permit for the vaccine, deeming the concerns in the petition insignificant.

"Misinformation is a significant threat to health care today and a major factor in vaccine hesitation," said Nicholas Sajjadi, a third-year researcher and osteopathic medical student at Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. "We are seeing well-meaning research and concerns taken out of context to fuel fear and anxiety about vaccination."

Carrying out a disinformation campaign

On 1 December 2022, Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg and Michael Yeadon have filed a petition to deny the emergency use of the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 manufactured by BioNTech and Pfizer. The petitioners raised unfounded concerns that female infertility could result from vaccine-induced antibodies. It is important to note that the signatories acknowledged the lack of evidence associating the risks of female infertility with COVID-19 vaccines.

Anti-vaccine advocates took this concern to create a misinformation complaint that misrepresented the EMA petition, and the public turned to Google to see if the information was legitimate. 

"I am disappointed that this misinformation has occurred, but I am pleased to see spikes in searches because it reflects genuine interest and suggests that people are doing their own research and trying to make informed decisions," said J. Martin Beal, DO , an OB-GYN with Tulsa OB-GYN Associates. "What I would like to emphasize to patients is that your doctor would like to have this conversation with you to clarify any questions or concerns you may have. Also, I strongly encourage you to get vaccinated - it will protect you and the baby."

Support for COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists currently recommends that COVID-19 vaccines not be denied to pregnant patients who meet criteria for vaccination based on the priority groups recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and those at increased risk of acquisition. of COVID-19, such as female health workers.

"Eliminating misinformation and informing patients about the risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination, or other misrepresented claims, can save lives and slow the spread of the disease," Sajjadi said. "In the battle to combat disinformation, Google Trends can be an effective tool to help physicians recognize and proactively address false claims with patients."

Guidelines for vaccinations in pregnancy in the country

The concern of undergoing vaccination during pregnancy, in the absence of data on the safety and efficacy of vaccines against COVID-19 for this target population, is the subject of debate nationally and internationally. The indications of the various countries provide for the vaccination offer for these women subject to an individual assessment of the risk / benefit profile, facilitated by an informative interview with health professionals.

The interim indications provided by the Del Paesen Obstetric Surveillance System (ItOSS) of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) as of January 31, 2022 are as follows:

  • pregnant and lactating women were not included in the Pfizer-BioNtech mRNA (Comirnaty), Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccine evaluation trials so we do not have safety and efficacy data for these people;
  • the studies conducted so far have not shown or suggested biological mechanisms that can associate mRNA vaccines with adverse effects in pregnancy and laboratory evidence on animals suggests the absence of vaccination risk;
  • currently pregnant and breastfeeding women are not a priority target of the COVID-19 vaccination offer which, to date, is not routinely recommended for these people;
  • from the data of the ItOSS study - relating to the first pandemic wave in the country - it emerges that pregnant women have a low risk of serious maternal and perinatal outcomes and that previous comorbidities (hypertension, obesity) and non-Del Paesena citizenship are significantly associated an increased risk of serious complications from COVID-19;
  • vaccination should be considered for pregnant women who are at high risk for serious complications from COVID19. Women in these conditions must evaluate, with the healthcare professionals who assist them, the potential benefits and risks and the choice must be made on a case-by-case basis;
  • if a vaccinated woman discovers that she is pregnant soon after vaccination, there is no evidence in favor of termination of the pregnancy;
  • if a woman discovers that she is pregnant between the first and second doses of the vaccine, she can postpone the second dose after the termination of pregnancy, except for those at high risk.

You can get vaccinated without fear

A study published in JAMA puts an end to this debate: vaccines do not cause male infertility. In the study they were taken into account 45 men in good health, of an age included between 18 and 50 years. All of them were waiting to receive an mRNA vaccine, therefore one of those produced by Pfizer or Moderna. Each of the volunteers were picked up two semen samples, the first after a week of abstinence and vaccination not yet occurred, while the second 70 days after the second dose. From the analyzes on the volume, concentration and motility of spermatozoa it emerged that "there was no significant decline in none of the parameters taken into consideration ".

Even the Ministry of Health had already clarified how SARS-Cov-2 did not cause infertility in either sex.

Fonti articolo: Jama, Gov. Salute, Google trends, the COVID-19 vaccine and infertility misinformation - American Osteopathic Association

  • coronavirus
  • pregnancy vaccinations
  • vaccine safety
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