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Dear Doctor: Is there any truth that the three current COVID-19 vaccines may cause infertility? I’ve been told that some of the OB-GYN doctors in my area are advising younger adults that this may be the case.
Dear Reader: In all of the data that have been pouring in since the start of vaccination efforts, no link has been found between get- ting the COVID-19 vaccine and subsequent infertility. Throughout the clinical trials leading up to the release of the vaccine, women became pregnant. Studies also continue to show that the vaccine does not affect sperm count and is safe during pregnancy, as well. The fallacies about the vaccine causing infertility have grown out of misleading statements made by several scientists, as well as misinterpretation of scientific data by anti-vaccine activists. This includes the false- hood that the coronavirus vaccines can alter the DNA of the recipient. This is not correct.
The vaccine works by teaching the immune system to target a single spike protein on the exterior of the coronavirus. The mRNA in the vaccine does not get incorporated into the recipient’s genetic code. Rather, it is broken down by the body soon after vaccination. All that is left behind are the lessons that it has taught to the person’s immune system about how to recognize and neutralize the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Although mRNA vaccines have been in development for decades, they are brand-new to the general public. For this reason, and because the science behind how they work is complex, it has become all too easy for misinformation to take hold. Add in the megaphone of various social media platforms, and it’s no surprise that internet searches for information about infertility and the COVID-19 vaccines have surged almost 35,000% in recent weeks.
Misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines is rapidly becoming an epidemic of its own. It has come to the point that a private school in Florida has banned teachers who are fully vaccinated from coming into contact with stu- dents. Meanwhile, virtually all COVID-19 deaths are now among people who are unvaccinated. This is due, in part, to the emergence of the delta variant. It’s a form of the original coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which has developed several mutations. As a result, the delta variant is far more transmissible. It’s also able to reach deeper into the lungs, which has linked it to more serious disease.
Due to the availability of these extremely effective vaccines, nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are now avoidable. Yet severe illness and deaths are spiking. As we write this, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has increased by nearly 70% over the previous week. Hospitalizations have jumped by more than one-third. The steady rise in the daily death toll reverses the decline that began with the vaccination effort in mid- January. As we have stated, virtually all COVID-19 deaths at this time are among people who have not been vaccinated. Many of them have been swayed by persistent misinformation, and we believe that is a tragedy.
Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assis- tant professor of medicine at UCLA Health.