No. But the persistent false rumour that vaccines affect fertility has been around since before the pandemic. But since Covid-19, the myth has resurfaced. It is possibly based on the ‘cautious’ way in which all new drugs are tested: a ‘healthy adults’ group is tested, which excludes pregnant women and other potentially vulnerable groups. As the safety of a particular drug is proven, more real-world data is gathered. Almost four billion vaccine doses have been administered to date, including many women who have successfully conceived. We know that vaccines do not contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women.
The medical advice for women who want to conceive is to take a vaccine.
“I heard that COVID-19 vaccine affect the fertility of unmarried women and is something to really worry about especially for some of us who still want to give birth to children”.
Titi Akosa, is asking the question, at a training workshop for people involved in the vaccine rollout in Lagos. She got the information from a women’s group on social media.
Even though she works as a frontline worker for the Lagos health ministry, a false claim she fears would lead to vaccine hesitancy among unmarried women in the state.
Records from the Lagos State the Ministry of Health COVID-19 Vaccine Analysis show that more than 318, 000 people have been vaccinated so far, according to estimates. The number of female who came out to receive the vaccines are 158, 279 with males constituting 159, 637.
To combat the COVID-19 virus that has ravaged the world in the last 16 months, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in December 2020 rolled out its first set of approved vaccines. The vaccination programme has been undermined by a wide range of misinformation.
One of these myths, is that it affects conception in women.
How then did this misinformation originate and how widespread has it become?
The Yandex fact-checking tool shows different articles and pictures about the effect of vaccines on women’s health. Different sources wrote for and against the claims with various pieces of evidence to support their positions.
False claims that a vaccinated person can “shed” spike proteins, which allegedly causes menstrual irregularities or other harmful effects on the reproductive health of unvaccinated women who are in proximity to them have circulated on the Internet.
These claims were cited by the Centner Academy, a private pre-school in Miami, Florida, which is owned by an antivax campaigner. It removed vaccinated teachers from its classrooms in April 2021 and has refused to hire vaccinated teachers in the future, causing a controversy in a country which, has seen more than 600, 000 Covid-related deaths and in which 160 million people have been vaccinated, according to WHO statistics.
Using the Yandex search engine, it appears that the misinformation about the link between COVID-19 and infertility in women may have originated from an article by Lance D. Johnson in Naturalnews.com, a website which is described by Wikipedia as ‘a far-right, anti-vaccination conspiracy theory and fake news website.’
Despite the fact that these theories are not based on scientific consensus, and originate from within fringe groups in North America, they are spread widely on social media across Africa.
As Titi Akosa noted earlier, there is growing concern within Nigeria’s medical and public health community about the web of misinformation regarding the harmful effects of COVID-19 vaccines, in particular, its link to infertility in women.
In an interview with this reporter, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr. Samuel Oluwatosin Adu, he explained that there is no conclusive medical evidence he is aware of at this time that covid-19 vaccine adversely affects the reproductive health of any woman or man of reproductive age.
This is an edited version of a story by Adeola Ogunlade which originally appeared on The Nation