As a high-risk obstetrician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, I’ve been getting many questions from my patients who have heard or seen some scary stuff on social media that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause infertility. So on the continuum between fact, I don’t know, and fiction, this fits the fiction category. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s get to the bottom of where this claim came from and do some myth-busting together.
A False Claim
The COVID-19 vaccine infertility claim first appeared in a blog back in October 2020 by a man from England who worked for Pfizer about ten years ago. He made the false claim that there was some ingredient in the Pfizer vaccine that trained a woman’s body to attack a protein that’s important in the development of the placenta. The placenta is the key organ that gets nourishment from the mother over to the baby during pregnancy.
How the COVID-19 Vaccine Works
If we take a step back to understand how the COVID-19 vaccine works, it teaches our bodies to attack the COVID virus’s spike protein. If you think about an ugly little bug covered in spikes, it uses those spikes to invade the cells in our body. The COVID-19 vaccine teaches our bodies how to attack those spikes and get immunity without ever having to see the actual virus.
The man from England claims there is a protein that looks like those coronavirus spikes in the placenta. He argues that getting the COVID-19 vaccine would cause our body to attack the placenta just like it attacks the coronavirus spikes and then cause fertility issues. If you look at the coronavirus spike protein next to the placenta protein he’s talking about, they look nothing alike. It would be like confusing Daffy Duck for Mickey Mouse just because they’re both cartoons.
As we contemplate the beginning of the end of the pandemic, each of us has two choices for our personal exit strategy. The first is we get the coronavirus and hope that we don’t have symptoms, but know that it can affect any of our organ systems and cost lifelong damage or death. The second is we get the COVID-19 vaccine, which could cause a couple of days of fever, muscle aches, chills. There may be some side effects with the vaccine, but there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility.
The Bottom Line on the COVID-19 Vaccine and Fertility
I’m the first to admit that we don’t know everything. Still, based on what we do know today, the COVID-19 vaccine does not cause infertility, and the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risk of getting infected with the virus.