Social media platforms were flooded with concerns this week over an alarming headline stating that Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, expected to be released for emergency use this week, could cause infertility in women. However, experts say these claims are unfounded.
"It's a myth, it's inaccurate – there's no evidence to support your belief," said Saad Omer, a vaccine expert at Yale University. Expert agencies overseeing the release of vaccines for human use have "a rigorous process" to weed out products that could have such catastrophic effects. "And when something happens, action is taken," said Dr. Omer.
This week, the Food and Drug Administration reaffirmed its confidence in data showing that the vaccine can protect people from developing Covid-19 without causing serious side effects. Pfizer's vaccine has been given the green light in the UK and Canada.
The infertility rumors were fueled by an article on a blog called Health and Money News falsely claiming that Pfizer's vaccine contained ingredients that can "train" the female body to attack a protein that plays a vital role in the Development of the placenta plays.
The unsubstantiated claims come from a petition by Dr. Michael Yeadon, a retired British doctor and former Pfizer employee who was previously criticized for his misleading views on the coronavirus. Dr. Yeadon has downplayed the severity of the UK pandemic and has publicly voiced his complaints about the futility of investing in vaccines.
However, experts say there is no evidence to support the infertility claim.
The main ingredient in Pfizer's vaccine (as well as a similar vaccine from Moderna that is also quickly on its way to emergency clearance) is genetic material that instructs human cells to make a coronavirus protein called Spike. The production of this protein teaches the body to fight off the coronavirus. Pfizer's vaccine does not contain placental proteins or genetic material that directs placental proteins to be made.
The misleading blog piece drew a comparison between coronavirus spike and some type of placental protein. The similarities are strong enough to suggest that a vaccine can trick the immune system into confusing the two proteins and attacking the placenta.
However, Stephanie Langel, an immunologist and expert on maternal and neonatal immunity at Duke University, pointed out that the coronavirus spike and the placental protein in question have almost nothing in common, so the vaccine is highly unlikely to have a response to these sensitive ones Tissue triggers. The two proteins share only a tiny section of material; Confusing them would be like mistaking a rhinoceros for a jaguar because they wear the same collar.
Dr. Langel also pointed out that the human body evolved to suppress immune responses that could damage its own tissues.
"If we didn't have that, we wouldn't even make it past day 1 of life," she said.
Pfizer pointed to a recent study that found that coronavirus didn't appear to increase your risk of pregnancy-related problems.
"There is no data to suggest that the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine candidate causes infertility," the company said in a statement it emailed.
Dr. Langel and Dr. Omer both noted that the researchers would continue to monitor vaccinated people's welfare as Pfizer's products and other products are launched around the world. There is still a lack of data in pregnant people, said Dr. Langel. But unfounded discussions about how vaccines could cause infertility are "especially detrimental" to science-based efforts to protect people with vaccines.