False claims that COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility deter Americans from receiving the shots and let health professionals persuade patients that the stories they have read online have no basis.
Among the worst examples of this misinformation spread on Facebook are that immunized men can make unvaccinated women sterile through sex, that 97% of vaccine recipients become sterile, and that the blows are “sterilizing. a whole generation ”.
With the absorption of the vaccine already slowing down, the claims are a threat to the Biden administration’s goal of securing herd immunity in the United States.
Research published earlier this month showed that about two-thirds of those who said they would “definitely” not be vaccinated were concerned about the impact on their fertility.
And about half of unvaccinated people say they are concerned that “the COVID-19 vaccine could negatively affect their fertility in the future,” said Ashley Kirzinger, associate director of public opinion and survey research. of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit study organization.
50% of women and 47% of men aged 18 to 49 who had not yet been vaccinated say they have these fears.
The initial exclusion of pregnant women from COVID-19 vaccine trials created room for falsehoods, and the latest effort by vaccine groups coincides with fewer people advancing for inoculations.
“They mostly just recycle things that scare people about previous vaccines in these new vaccines, whether it makes scientific sense or not,” said Devon Greyson, a professor of health communications at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The messages are aimed at women because “fertility is just one of those things we react to so strongly and it’s so personal,” Greyson added. “So if you’re looking for a bogeyman man, ‘It’ll make you infertile’ it’s really good.”
Katharine O’Connell White, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine, agreed that “concerns about fertility with vaccines affect what it means to be a woman for many women.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine said in a joint statement that “there is no evidence that the vaccine can lead to loss of fertility.”
Despite the death toll of more than 500,000 Americans from COVID-19, the hesitation persists and has left doctors having to reassure patients that their fears about not being able to have children are out of place.
“I tell my patients all the time, to print everything you find that makes you nervous and scared. And let’s talk about it, “said White.
But most vaccine skeptics don’t believe their doctor or ask for his advice.
Abinash Virk, an infectious disease doctor and co-chair of the COVID-19 vaccination effort at Mayo Clinic, said people who are firmly opposed to receiving the vaccine either don’t ask for it or don’t go in.
A history of health problems of women most likely to be rejected by health professionals increases the problem.
“The needs of women have historically not been included in research studies. It’s often because the person designing the research study is not a woman, ”White said.
With women, often the default health administrators of their families, and people making decisions about whether to vaccinate their children, misinformation is especially important, as the U.S. has opened Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to 12-year-olds. or more.
A large part of the population, including children, will have to be inoculated to achieve herd immunity, when the proportion of people with antibodies greatly prevents the spread of the virus.
And vaccine falsities obstruct an authorized health guideline.
“The misinformation is catchy,” White added. “It’s much more sticky than the old, boring truth.”