The World Health Organization has warned that the world is facing two pandemics. One is the spread of the coronavirus, but the other, equally dangerous, is the spread of misinformation and misinformation. False or misleading information has surfaced about the virus, treatments, vaccines, masks and just about every other aspect of the pandemic (SN: 5/6/2021).
Some of these lies or half-truths are deliberately used by a few people to sell vitamin supplements, books and DVDs, or to increase their own influence. But the vast majority of people may have heard misinformation from a friend or family member, seen it on social media, or heard it from celebrities or politicians. In a survey of adults in the United States conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 8 in 10 people believe they are unsure about the truth of at least one common lie about the pandemic. About 46 percent of people believe or doubt one to three falsehoods related to the pandemic, and 32 percent believe or are unsure whether four or more false statements are true or false. Only 22 percent of adults in the survey did not believe any of the false statements.
One particularly damaging rumor is that coronavirus vaccines cause infertility. In the survey, 8 percent of people said they believe that false statement. Another 23 percent of those surveyed were unsure whether studies had shown a link between the vaccines and infertility. And it doesn’t help people separate truth from fiction when celebrities spread false information. Recently, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he lied about vaccination over concerns that the COVID-19 vaccine could cause infertility, such as People magazine reports. It follows rapper Nicki Minaj’s tweet that her cousin’s boyfriend in Trinidad suffered swollen testicles after getting the vaccine. That claim was disputed, according to the Minister of Health of Trinidad and Tobago CNN.
However, it is not just athletes and celebrities who are spreading false rumors about COVID-19 vaccines and infertility. That misinformation is everywhere. In Kibera, an informal settlement in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, health volunteers hear two key concerns about getting the vaccine: “Can I have children after this?” and “Can I get the vaccine if I have diabetes or cancer?” [or other health problems]?” There’s a gap between who asks those questions, says Eddah Ogogo, the primary health care program coordinator for the international nonprofit Carolina for Kibera Africa, which helps coordinate vaccine distribution. “The younger population [is] afraid of infertility. The elderly population is afraid of comorbidities,” she says.
The easier conversation is to reassure people that the vaccine won’t interfere with their medications and can help people with health problems avoid the most serious complications of COVID-19. But, Ogogo says, “when it comes to fertility, there are people who get convinced. They say, ‘Wow! That’s good to know,'” and they get their chance. And then, “there are people who say, ‘I keep asking around and when I have the information I want, I’ll come [get vaccinated].’” Just under 7 percent of adults in Kenya are fully vaccinated, mainly because of a lack of access to vaccines, but misinformation also plays a role, Ogogo says (SN: 2/26/21).
Both local and global news outlets often make the disclaimer that there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility. But that lackluster response leaves the door open to misinterpretation or cover-up rumors. There is even evidence that the vaccines Do not cause infertility. A study found that there was no difference in the number of pregnancies after embryo transfers in women who had antibodies to the coronavirus through vaccination or infection compared to women who had no antibodies. Fertility and Sterility Reports in Sept. In clinical trials testing the vaccines, accidental pregnancies in both the vaccine and unvaccinated control groups occurred at comparable rates, data published in the April Nature Reviews Immunology show. The miscarriage rate was also similar, researchers reported in a Lancet study published Oct. 21 looking at pregnancies in the AstraZeneca vaccine trial.
Real-world data from Israel of more than 15,000 pregnant women also demonstrate the benefits of the vaccine. About half of the pregnant people were vaccinated with the vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. Only about 2 percent became infected with the coronavirus – usually between their first and second injection. But among unvaccinated women, the infection rate continued to rise, reaching about 4 percent by the end of the study, suggesting that vaccination may prevent infection during pregnancy, researchers reported in July in JAMA.
That’s good news, because pregnant women who get COVID-19 are more likely to give birth to their babies prematurely and may be hospitalized or die more often than uninfected women, a study of studies published last year in the United States found. British medical journal found it. And men who get COVID-19 may have lower levels of testosterone and low sperm count after infection, and may be more likely to have erectile dysfunction, three studies show. It’s not clear if any of those problems will persist in the long run.
But those are consequences of COVID-19, not of the vaccines. Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine did not harm sperm production, researchers reported in June in JAMA, adding to the mounting evidence that vaccines are safe. That fact may eventually get through to people who fear getting the vaccine will harm their fertility.
In its latest report on managing “the infodemic” — the deluge of information about COVID-19, both true and false, that people encounter every day — the WHO set out both short- and long-term strategies to make people less vulnerable to wrongdoing. information . One thing is clear, however, the report says. “Both innocent dissemination of misinformation and malicious disinformation campaigns have led to actions around the world that… [people] with a higher risk of spreading the coronavirus and putting them at greater risk of harming their health.”
The Office of the US Surgeon General has put together a handy checklist to help people review the information they see or hear. The checklist is part of a toolkit to teach people how to fight disinformation in their own communities, including talking — preferably in person rather than online — with friends and relatives who may have bought into conspiracy theories. “We need people in communities across our country to have these conversations,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told ABC News. If the Kaiser survey is any indication, there is no shortage of people who could benefit from such discussions.