New research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows no evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines pose serious risks during pregnancy.
But that hasn’t stopped online spreaders of misinformation from making unfounded claims about the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines being linked to things like pregnancy complications or infertility.
Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, an osteopathic physician and anti-vaccine activist, is among the people making these claims. She is the author of an anti-vaccine book and has previously said vaccines cause autism, a claim widely debunked by public health officials. A Facebook page Tenpenny ran was removed in December for spreading misinformation
In a nearly 10-minute long video being circulated on Instagram, Tenpenny made a variety of claims about the vaccines, which she says were “designed to kill human fertility.”
Tenpenny claimed that officials “recommend that women who get one of these shots should absolutely not get pregnant for at least the first two months after they’ve been injected. Why? Because the spike protein can bind to the ovary and we have no idea what the spike protein and the antibody to the spike protein could possibly do to the reproductive tract.”
She also claimed that this “spike protein” could bind to sperm causing myriad unknown effects if that sperm fertilized an egg.
“We have no idea what sort of genetic or birth defect problems that could actually happen,” Tenpenny said.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
These claims are false. There is no evidence the mRNA vaccines cause infertility or pose serious risks to those who are vaccinated while trying to get pregnant.
There is also no evidence that public health officials or the companies that produce the mRNA vaccines have advised people to pause efforts to conceive a child or to avoid unprotected sex for a period of time after they are vaccinated.
The CDC is clear on its guidance for people who are trying to conceive or would like to get pregnant someday.
“If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you may receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to you,” the website reads. “There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems. … If you are trying to become pregnant, you do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Pfizer — the vaccine Tenpenny singled out by name in the video — said there “are no data to suggest that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine causes infertility.”
The statement continued:
“It has been incorrectly suggested that COVID-19 vaccines will cause infertility because of a very short amino acid sequence in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 that is partly shared with the placental protein, syncytin-1. The sequence, however, is so short, not even 4 amino acids in a row, but rather 4 shared amino acids in a sequence of 5, that it is very unlikely that it could lead to the body generating an immune response that would result in the body attacking itself or the placenta.”
In addition, experts cited by Johns Hopkins Medicine, UChicago Medicine and Columbia University Irving Medical Center reached similar conclusions: There is no evidence getting the COVID-19 vaccine will affect a person’s fertility or increase the chances of harm to the placenta or fetus.
Other fact-checking organizations have also debunked several of Tenpenny’s other claims in the video.
Tenpenny claimed that it is recommended “women who get one of these shots should absolutely not get pregnant for at least the first two months after they’ve been injected” because an ingredient in the coronavirus vaccines might cause unknown problems during pregnancy.
This is false. The CDC and medical experts recommend people get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as the vaccine becomes available to them — even if they are actively trying to conceive. Experts also agree that there is no evidence the mRNA vaccines cause fertility problems.
We rate this claim False.