COVID-19 Fact Checks

FALSE: COVID-19 mRNA vaccines cause infertility

Rappler
FALSE: COVID-19 mRNA vaccines cause infertility
As of May 18, 2021, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility
At a glance
  • Claim: The COVID-19 vaccines, specifically the ones that use mRNA, cause infertility. 
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: As of Tuesday, May 18, 2021, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility. Health experts (like The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) and government health departments (like the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Australian Department of Health) say that people who plan to become pregnant in the future may receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • Why we fact-checked this: This was flagged by Facebook’s fact-checking tool as potentially misleading. It currently has 254 reactions, 121 comments, and 690 shares on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle data. 
Complete details

A video on the website BitChute said that the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines might cause infertility because of a protein called Syncytin-1.

The woman in the video, obstetrics and gynecology physician and known anti-vaxxer Christiane Northrup, said: “There is a protein that is called Syncytin, Syncytin-1, Syncytin-2, and the antibody that this mRNA makes in your body – because remember, it’s making you into an antibody factory against a spike protein for SARS-CoV2, and it’s synthetic – and it looks a lot like this Syncytin. And the problem with this Syncytin is it is absolutely necessary for the placenta and for pregnancy and that kind of thing. So the COVID vaccines might affect fertility. There’s a striking similarity between the human Syncytins and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. They are very, very similar. What could possibly go wrong?”

This was flagged by Facebook’s fact-checking tool as potentially misleading. The BitChute link currently has 254 reactions, 121 comments, and 690 shares on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle data. 

This claim is false. 

As of Tuesday, May 18, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines can affect fertility. 

The Australian Department of Health said that none of the COVID-19 vaccines that are approved or under review by their Therapeutic Goods Administration cause infertility. On their website, they addressed the Syncytin-1 protein theory directly, saying: “The theory that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility is based on the disproven idea that one of the spike proteins in COVID-19 and the Syncytin-1 protein (which help placenta development) are the same. They are not.”

On February 4, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in a statement that they recommend the vaccine to be made available to pregnant women. They said: “We also assure patients that there is no evidence that the vaccine can lead to loss of fertility. While fertility was not specifically studied in the clinical trials of the vaccine, no loss of fertility has been reported among trial participants or among the millions who have received the vaccines since their authorization, and no signs of infertility appeared in animal studies. Loss of fertility is scientifically unlikely.”

The website of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said that women who are trying to get pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC said, “There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems – problems trying to get pregnant.”

A study on the initial safety of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in pregnant persons published in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 21 said that there were no obvious safety signals in their preliminary findings on pregnant women who received the COVID-19 vaccine. However, they also said that there needs to be a follow-up study on women who are much earlier in pregnancy to inform outcomes. 

Another study that was reported in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal on May 11 found that there was no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine caused a breakdown of maternal immunologic tolerance of the fetus. This study included 84 women who received the vaccine during pregnancy and 116 women in a control group who did not receive a vaccine.

Northrup is known for her opposition to vaccines. The Boston Globe reported on April 30 that Northrup’s Instagram account was disabled for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines. She was also named one of the “Disinformation Dozen” in a study by the non-profit NGO Center for Countering Digital Hate, which found that 12 personalities who are anti-vaccine are responsible for almost two-thirds of the anti-vaccine content circulating on social media. – Vernise Tantuco/Rappler.com

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.