Online users in anti-vaccine circles have questioned if the COVID-19 vaccines could cause fertility issues with men. In May, VERIFY confirmed there is no evidence the vaccine causes fertility issues in women, and the Centers for Disease Control also confirmed there was no evidence of fertility issues in women.
Now, there are claims spreading online that the COVID-19 vaccine could cause fertility issues, or even sterility, in men. This thread from Rita Banerji, who has a verified Twitter account, has more than 130 retweets and includes information on fertility issues in men and women.
The tweet links back to the Facebook page of Paul Thomas, M.D., a prominent anti-vaccine pediatrician. Thomas’ Facebook page cites Dr. Janci Chunn Lindsay, who made statements regarding vaccine safety during an April hearing before the Centers for Disease Control.
Quotes from Chunn Lindsay’s comments before the CDC were also shared to a Bitchute video titled “MOLECULAR BIOLOGIST DR. JANCI CHUNN LINDSAY: ‘WE COULD BE STERILIZING AN ENTIRE GENERATION’” has been viewed more than 9,000 times since it was published on May 1.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause fertility issues in men?
According to recent studies, the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines do not cause fertility issues in men.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which use new mRNA technology, are safe for male reproduction, according to a study published on June 17 by researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine. They did not study the effects of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.
According to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, 45 healthy male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 35 participated in the study, and none of the men had fertility issues from the start. They provided a semen sample prior to receiving the first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and provided another sample 70 days after the second dose.
The findings were published in JAMA, a medical journal founded and distributed by the American Medical Association.
The link to the article was shared across Facebook more than 40 times and across Twitter more than 200 times, according to data from CrowdTangle, a public insights tool owned and operated by Facebook. On Facebook, the article appeared on pages worldwide, a lion’s share connected to a meme posted on the One Vaxxed Nurse page on June 18.
“Vaccine hesitancy is a barrier to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, and we believe some of that hesitancy is due to public opinion about whether the vaccine might negatively affect fertility,” Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy said in a release posted by the University of Miami.
“We were the first to demonstrate that the COVID virus, itself, can affect male fertility and be a potential cause for erectile dysfunction. We are now the first to examine if there is any impact of the COVID vaccine on male fertility potential, which we did not find,” the release said.
Dr. Albert Hsu, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at MU Health, published an article on the negative impact of COVID-19 on testicular function, sperm production and male fertility.
In less than 10% of cases involving men who contracted the COVID-19 virus, men reported having some testicular damage, including inflammation of the testes and a decrease in male fertility hormones, Hsu told VERIFY. There were also reports of COVID-19 in sperm and in testicular biopsies, he added.
These were reported with the Alpha variant, or the main variant of the virus.
“And so given these concerns, the safest thing if someone's concerned about fertility, especially on the male side is really to get the vaccine and the second best is to continue the masking social distancing, etc, to minimize the risk of getting COVID-19 and it's concerning variants,” Hsu said.
The vaccine activates the immune system to protect an individual from the disease itself, Hsu said, which is why it’s safer to get the vaccine than get COVID-19. Allan Pacey, professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, told VERIFY men can experience similar fertility problems with any illness, including the flu.
“The COVID-19 virus seems to affect sperm production slightly and temporarily. This is probably because if you get the virus you are ill and have a fever. We see the same effect when men get the flu,” Pacey said. “The vaccine does not contain live virus and so there is no mechanism to affect the testicles in any way different to other vaccines (e.g. the flu vaccine). So I don’t see any concerns about the vaccine.”
Men should not be hesitant about taking the vaccine, Hsu said, but he understands the concept of vaccine hesitancy. Hsu said he makes his patients know that science and medicine “is not a religion.”
“So when you're asking the question about vaccine hesitancy, I would pull back and say, medicine and science is not a religion. It's not based on belief. It's based on evidence. And so lacking evidence, we can't really push things,” Hsu said. “But right now, the preponderance of the evidence is suggestive that, again, the COVID disease may be dangerous for male fertility, not in all cases, but in some percentage, and that the COVID vaccine, as far as we can tell, does not have any negative impacts on male or female infertility.”
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