Rumors circulating vaccines are linked to infertility; one OBGYN explains why this is scientifically impossible

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It’s a story circulating the Internet that the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines are linked to female infertility.

Bloggers of Health and Money News first started the rumor, and the post has since gone viral on social media sites.

Writers claim the vaccines contain a spike protein called syncytin-1 which is “vital for the formation of human placenta in women,” that could be targeted by the body’s immune system leaving women unable to conceive.

However, Dr. Cameual Wright, obstetrician-gynecologist at CareSource, says couples need not to worry. The vaccines doesn’t contain the syncytin-1 protein and there is no evidence to support the vaccines have any impact on female fertility.

Gillis: There’s been a rumor circulating the internet the coronavirus vaccines are linked to infertility. Fact or fiction?

Wright: It is fiction based on the evidence that we have available to us. When we look at the studies that were done for the COVID vaccine development we know that they did not intentionally include pregnant women because of the ethical concerns about potentially harming the baby. 

But there were women who did conceive during the study and we know that there are women during those studies that did get pregnant and we are able to now see the results of that and we know they were able to conceive just fine. And in fact if we look at the rates of conception and in the vaccine group compared to the control group the people who did not get the vaccine were very similar. There is no evidence that their babies were harmed in any way 

Now this myth came about because there is some thought that the messenger RNA–which is used in the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine–could potentially affect a protein that’s in the placenta and attack the placental protein. There is no evidence that is true and again based on all of the evidence that we’ve had during the recent trials as well as now that the vaccine is available and millions of people have been vaccinated there’s been no evidence whatsoever that the vaccine causes infertility or hurts the developing baby in any way. 

Gillis: Based on this evidence, what is your recommendation?

Wright: My recommendation would be to couples who are thinking about conceiving to think seriously about getting the vaccine. I would encourage women to talk to their doctor about her own special circumstance if she remains concerned, but certainly again the available evidence would suggest that it is safe. 

The other part of the equation is what happens if you don’t get the vaccine. We know that COVID is incredibly serious and we know that there are people who have lost their lives because of COVID infection. So, I think that we have to weigh any potential risks that the vaccine might carry with the consequences of developing a COVID infection. Those are all things to think very strongly about and to talk to your physician about or provider. 

Gillis: Well, Dr. Wright, that’s a great message to get out there. And circulating back to theory of why this would occur if a woman was given the vaccine. Theory doesn’t necessarily translate into application or practice. 

Wright: That’s exactly right. So, a lot of times people will propose potential side effects of the vaccine that really aren’t born out of the research and so we have to be very careful because some of these myths can be very damaging and make it very confusing for consumers to know what is the right path to take. 

So, I will say what I’ve said multiple times. The healthcare community should be your source of truth. Certainly there are websites that lead us to evidence-based information like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website. There have been several leading organizations in women’s healthcare space including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Society of Internal Field Specialists, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine–all of whom have endorsed the vaccine and it’s uses. 

There are reputable sites and reputable information that you can seek if you want more information and I would just be very cautious of what you hear and what you read on social media and other outlets. 

Gillis: Those are some heavy hitters that back this up. Follow the science and I always like to listen to people who know better than I do. 

Wright: That’s exactly right. 

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over six years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Facebook @DrMaryGillis and Instagram @reportergillis.