By now, you’ve likely heard rumblings or seen social media posts about the supposed (and totally false) link between the COVID-19 vaccine and infertility.
It may surprise you to learn that false claims linking vaccines and fertility are nothing new. “The trope that vaccines affect your fertility is played out over and over again,” says Zev Williams, MD, PhD, director of the Columbia University Fertility Center in New York City. HPV vaccines, for instance, have been wrongly linked to causing premature menopause in women that would render them infertile.
In the case of COVID-19, the never-before-used mRNA technology in both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is adding an extra degree of fear, says Dr. Zev Williams. Plus, there’s the fact that all three of the vaccines were approved through emergency use authorizations as opposed to the traditional FDA approval process (which can take years as opposed to months).
It also doesn’t help that the now-cancelled Amazon Prime miniseries Utopia features a vaccine that sterilizes people in an effort to thin out the population. This show is a remake of a UK series from 2013—long before we ever lived by the phrase “social distancing,” but nonetheless, it easily stokes these anxieties.
Just to be clear: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) calls allegations linking the COVID-19 vaccine and infertility “unfounded” and “scientifically disproven.”
Here’s everything you need to know about how the vaccine works, and why you shouldn’t worry about it impacting your fertility.
How does the COVID-19 vaccine work again?
Right now, there are two different types of vaccines (from three different companies) approved for use in the U.S.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which requires just one shot, is what’s called a viral vector vaccine. This is the same type of vaccine that’s used against the flu every year. As the CDC explains, it uses a modified version of a different virus to prompt our cells to produce the spike protein found on the virus that causes COVID-19. This is harmless to you, but it allows your immune system to recognize the spike protein and produce antibodies against it. Your immune system will remember how to fight off the virus in the future.
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