Covid-19 vaccines don’t cause infertility, say Yale professor, student
MANILA, Philippines — As the country starts to prepare for the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines, some myths and fears with the immunization shot still linger.
Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr., in a televised meeting on Tuesday, also cited the misinformation posted on social media by “anti-vaxxers” (people who disagree with the use of vaccines for a variety of reasons) as one of the causes of low confidence among Filipinos with receiving jabs of the incoming doses of vaccines.
“This is a problem that needs to be addressed. We know that you will be of great help because the willingness of our countrymen to get vaccinated is decreasing due to the adverse effects of certain brands,” Galvez said, speaking in Filipino.
“At the same time, anti-vaxxers have a strong social media presence. This is a big challenge,” he added.
The Philippines is not the only country that is experiencing this. Anti-vaxxers are also a huge problem in the United States, especially now that they have started their inoculation campaign with batches of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccines.
In a New York Times article published on Tuesday, Akiko Iwasaki, Waldemar von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, and Yale M.D.-Ph.D student Alice Lu-Culligan debunked a specific rumor — which they believe discourages women to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Myth: Covid-19 vaccines can make women infertile
According to Iwasaki and Culligan, the rumor claims that certain vaccines can cause infertility “by generating antibodies that not only target the coronavirus spike protein, as designed, but also inadvertently react with a protein in the placenta called syncytin-1.”
The vaccines’ antibodies, according to rumors, can attack the syncytin-1 and affect the development of the placenta because the coronavirus spike protein allegedly has a similar structure to the human protein.
Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna uses mRNA, a genetic molecule that carries the instructions for making proteins in our body, to instruct cells to make a harmless spike protein similar to those of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
These spikes and spike fragments in the cells will be recognized by the immune system and cause an immune response that produces antibodies that hinders the virus from attacking other cells.
Iwasaki and Culligan said that the “confusion is understandable,” since the US pharmaceutical companies Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna did not include research on pregnant and lactating women during their clinical trials.
“But the valid concerns about this information void have been eclipsed by targeted misinformation campaigns led by vaccine skeptics who are weaponizing women’s health issues to advance their agenda. These falsehoods are being spread to amplify our legitimate anxieties and undermine trust in vaccination,” they added.
Fact: Covid-19 vaccines are non-evasive to pregnant women
An analysis by the Yale professor and student found that there was no similarity between the viral spikes and the placental protein. They also noted that there have been no official and scientific reports yet citing Covid-19 vaccines as a cause for infertility.
In fact, they stated that some women were still able to get pregnant after receiving jabs of Covid-19 vaccines — either after contracting the disease or during the clinical trials of the vaccines.
Both Iwasaki and Culligan added that the vaccines might also benefit both the lactating mother and the infant. They also quashed the myth that pregnant women and their baby can get Covid-19 from the vaccines.
“[V]accines induce protective immune responses in the mother, creating antibodies that are passed to infants via breast milk and serve to protect them,” they said in the article.
“[I]t is unlikely that the vaccine can cross into breast milk. Even if they did, they would not pose a threat to the health of a nursing baby; if ingested, these components would be digested and degraded in the gastrointestinal tract,” they added.
However, they emphasized that the Covid-19 can indeed make pregnant women more susceptible to severe illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the dreaded disease can increase the risk of preterm labor (which means that the baby might be delivered too early or before the 37 weeks of pregnancy is completed.)
“For any woman who is pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive, contracting Covid-19 is almost certainly more dangerous than getting immunized. And ultimately, mass vaccination, combined with physical distancing and wearing masks, provides the only way that we can end the pandemic and protect all women, men and children from the disease,” Iwasaki and Culligan said.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine in PH
The Philippines’ vaccine czar said the country might be able to acquire and rollout Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech by February via the COVAX Facility.
Last week, Galvez announced that there will be at least 40 million doses from the COVAX Facility. But, contrary to his earlier statement, he stated that the coming vaccines might be manufactured either by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, COVAVAX of the Serum Institute of India, or Johnson & Johnson.
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