Why COVID Vaccines are Falsely Linked to Infertility
January 12, 2021 – There is no evidence that the new COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility, but it’s a concern that has been cited by some healthcare workers as a reason they are reluctant to be the first to get vaccinated.
Across the country, significant numbers of healthcare workers have been reluctant to receive the new vaccines.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said in a recent briefing that 60% of staff at nursing homes in Ohio had refused their vaccines. In Georgia, an infection control nurse who coordinates COVID vaccines for the 30,000 workers in her healthcare system said so far, less than 33% had been vaccinated. The rest had decided to “wait and see”. The nurse disclosed the figures on the condition that we did not disclose which hospital she worked at, as she was not authorized to speak to reporters.
None of this surprised Jill Foster, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis who studied vaccine reluctance.
“With COVID, it was the perfect storm. With COVID, there were already a bunch of people saying there was no COVID, it’s no worse than the flu, ”she says. Many of these people have gotten substantial social media followings. When the vaccines arrived, they used these platforms to stoke conspiracy theories.
Where does this myth of infertility come from?
In early December, a German doctor and epidemiologist named Wolfgang Wodarg, skeptical of the need for vaccines in other pandemics, teamed up with a former Pfizer employee to ask the European Medicines Agency (EU counterpart European FDA) to delay the study and approval of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. One of their concerns was a protein called syncytin-1, which shares similar genetic instructions with part of the peak of the new coronavirus. This same protein is an important component of the placenta in mammals. If the vaccine causes the body to make antibodies against syncytin-1, they argued, it could also cause the body to attack and reject the protein in the human placenta, making women infertile.
Their petition was picked up by anti-vaccination blogs and websites and posted on social media. Facebook eventually removed petition posts from its site for spreading disinformation.
The idea that vaccines could be deployed for population control was also incorporated into the plot of a recent fictional miniseries on Amazon Prime Video called Utopia. In this show – spoiler alert – a drugmaker obsessed with population control creates the illusion of an influenza pandemic to convince people to take his vaccine, which does not prevent infection, but human reproduction .
An Amazon Studios spokesperson said the series was pure fiction.
“Utopia premiered on Amazon Prime Video on September 25, 2020, ”the spokesperson said in a statement to WebMD. “It was written 7 years ago and was filmed before the COVID-19 pandemic. The series is based on the original UK version, which premiered in 2013, and shares much of the same plot, including the vaccine storyline. “
While the show is the business of creative minds, could something like this happen in real life?
The biological basis for this idea is really fragile, says Foster.
The coronavirus spike protein and syncytin-1 share small portions of the same genetic code, but not enough to match them. She says it would be as if two people had phone numbers both containing the number 7. You couldn’t dial a number to reach the other person, even if their phone numbers shared a digit.
“What we do know is that they’re similar on such a small level,” Foster says.
Even Wodarg, in his petition, writes “There is no indication whether the antibodies against the peak proteins of the SARS viruses would also act as anti-Syncytin-1 antibodies.”
Indeed, data from human studies on the Pfizer vaccine does not support this theory. In the Pfizer trial, which included more than 37,000 people, the women underwent pregnancy tests before being accepted into the study. They were excluded if they were already pregnant. During the trial, 23 women conceived, probably by accident. Twelve of these pregnancies occurred in the vaccine group and 11 in the placebo group. They continued to be followed as part of the study.
Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says that idea really collapses when you consider that more than 22 million people in the United States have been infected with SARS-CoV- 2, the virus that causes COVID -19. In fact, experts believe that number is much higher because 22 million is just the number that has been tested and found. Most think the real number is at least 3 times as high.
Offit said to consider that 70 million Americans have been infected, or about 20% of the population. If the infertility theory were true, he says, you would expect the body making antibodies against the natural infection to show up in our fertility statistics. This is not the case.
“There is no evidence that this pandemic has changed fertility patterns,” says Offit.
He says there are cases where vaccines have caused disease-related biological effects. Take the example of measles. After a measles vaccine, you may have small broken blood vessels called petechiae from a problem with the blood clotting. It’s rare, but it can happen. The vaccine causes this phenomenon, he says, because measles, the disease, can also be the cause.
“If natural infection doesn’t change fertility, why would a vaccine do it?” said Offit, who reviewed the clinical trials behind the vaccines as an adviser to the FDA.
Offit admits that we don’t have all of the long-term safety data we’d like on vaccines. This is being collected with fury right now, as vaccines are distributed to millions of people, and reported by the CDC.
But so far, he says the main problems appear to be a severe allergic reaction that seems to occur very rarely – in around 11 people for every million doses given. If this happens, he says, people usually know right away, when they are still under observation by nurses and doctors. Offit says the reaction, although severe, is treatable. This is one of the reasons the CDC has advised people with allergies to any part of the vaccine, including PEG or a related compound called polysorbate, to avoid these early injections.
Bell’s palsy, which causes one side of a person’s face to fall temporarily, can be another rare risk. In clinical trials, this temporary paralysis has occurred somewhat more often in those vaccinated than in those given the placebo, although cases of Bell’s palsy are not more common than one might expect. expect in the general population. At this time, it is not known if this is a side effect of vaccines.
Offit says what people should know is that they might feel pretty shabby after their injections. He says he had about 12 hours of fatigue and fever after his recent vaccine. This is not a side effect, but the body generates a protective shield against the virus.
“It was a success,” he says, “but again, a small price to pay to avoid this virus.”
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