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Fact check: No, the COVID-19 vaccine doesn't cause infertility

As rumors swirl, doctors are working hard to debunk disinformation
Posted at 11:14 AM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 18:21:04-04

(WXYZ) — Spend some time online and you’re sure to stumble across a slew of conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. One of the most frustrating for doctors? That the vaccine will make women sterile.

Related: Can pregnant moms transfer COVID-19 immunity to babies? Doctor weighs in on research

"This is a myth," said Dr. D’Angela Pitts, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at Henry Ford Health System.

Pitts was getting so many questions about the infertility rumors that she wrote a blog post for the hospital to stop the disinformation.

"It stems from an epidemiologist who said that one of the proteins can affect the placenta and its implantation. And then it has been carried through social media," she said.

The study is something OBGYN Dr. Amy Wright has heard about too.

"This came out of a very non-specific report out of Germany. No real data behind it, no real university attached to it, Wright said.

"Today in my office I think I spoke to ten people regarding the COVID vaccine and some of their concerns," he added. "Unfortunately, there was confusion on social media."

Other infertility lies swirling around the web steal language from a 1989 fertility study involving baboons that have since been championed by anti-vaxxers.

"When I was doing my homework about the fertility question, every single vaccine someone was trying to say it caused infertility and on each vaccine that myth was busted," Wright said. "I have a 20-year-old daughter. I didn’t want to give her a vaccine that would create fertility issues. She has had the vaccine, I feel very confident in giving her the vaccine."

During the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine clinical trials, 23 people became pregnant after receiving the vaccine. And these results have since been replicated out in the real world.

"I have had multiple patients — numerous — have received the vaccine and have become pregnant," said Pitts.

While infertility rumors have taken up a chunk of time for OBGYNs this is only part of the conversation they are having right now.

While it was initially unclear if pregnant women should get vaccinated, now the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are recommending they to get the shots. And new moms are also encouraged to help give their newborns antibodies from breast milk.

This is what helped convince Megan Gerwolls, a new mom based in Waterford, to get the vaccine.

"I’ll be selfless and be able to give my daughter antibodies," said Gerwolls, who is a patient of Dr. Wright.

"I was adamant about not getting the vaccine just because there weren’t a lot of studies and I was afraid," said Gerwolls, who gave birth to her daughter, Mavis, on St. Patrick's day.

After a long conversation with Wright, the new mom changed her mind. There was the benefit of antibodies — she plans to also give some breast milk to her two-year-old son as well — but also a hope for some normalcy.

"Maybe we’ll be able to get out more, and not be as nervous with the vaccine," she said.

As of Monday, more than 106,000 pregnant women have self-reported to the CDC that they took the vaccine while pregnant.