As more people are able to get vaccinated, many are hopeful and excited that we're getting closer to ending the pandemic. However, as you consider the COVID-19 vaccine either for yourself or for your child, you may also have some concerns. There is a lot of misinformation out there – including the myth that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause infertility.
This myth, in summary, is just not logical when you look at the science, says Nirupama DeSilva, M.D., a pediatric gynecologist at Children's Health℠ and Professor at UT Southwestern. Dr. DeSilva explains the facts behind the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility to help clear up any misunderstandings about the vaccine's safety.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine make you infertile?
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause infertility. With all the data from studies and after millions of vaccinations, no evidence suggests that infertility occurs after the vaccine – or that it is even possible. In fact, no vaccine has ever been shown to cause infertility.
The basis of this myth may be a misunderstanding about how the vaccine works. "There is some concern and misinformation being spread that suggests that how the COVID-19 vaccine works can affect implantation of the placenta," says Dr. DeSilva. "But this is not scientifically accurate."
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is currently the only vaccine approved for teenagers under 18, contains a small piece of mRNA. This mRNA contains instructions on how to create a spike protein identical to one found on the COVID-19 virus. Once our bodies build that protein, which is harmless by itself, our immune system develops antibodies that protect us against COVID-19.
False claims say that the protein from the COVID-19 vaccine is similar to a protein called syncyntin-1, which supports placenta growth. However, these are not the same protein, and there is no data to suggest that the vaccine could affect fertility or a growing placenta.
Additionally, the COVID-19 vaccine cannot change a person's DNA. This is another false claim that is based on misinformation. mRNA does not affect a person's DNA or genetic makeup in any way – or their future child's DNA.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine affect your period?
A change in menstrual cycle is not a documented side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, some women have reported a temporary change in their periods after getting the vaccine. This may fuel fears that the COVID-19 vaccine can affect fertility.
Dr. DeSilva says that if a change occurs in menstrual cycle after vaccination, it would be temporary and not affect fertility.
"Infections, immune reactions and fevers are understood to cause short-term, self-limited changes in cycles," says Dr. DeSilva. You may have been sick or stressed in the past and noticed a change in your cycle or have even skipped a period. Since the vaccine triggers your body's immune response, it could temporarily affect your periods, too. But just like a cold or flu, once your immune response is over, your menstrual cycles go back to normal.
Why should children and teens get the COVID-19 vaccine?
While children and teens are at lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19, they are not immune from the virus. Vaccinating children and teens not only protects them and your immediate family from getting sick, but also helps the community.
In addition, getting vaccinated is an important step in helping us return to regular activities and routines.
"This past year has taken a real emotional toll on kids," says Dr. DeSilva. "To decrease mental health concerns and to get our teens back to the lives they want to live, it's really important for us to vaccinate our children."
Vaccinating adolescents is also backed by science – including major medical organizations, from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the North American Society of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
"This is not a recommendation that multiple medical societies would make lightly if there were a true concern about reproductive health," says Dr. DeSilva. "I think it's important to think about that as we think about vaccinating our teens."
Dr. DeSilva recommends talking to your teen about their feelings about getting the vaccine. Many teens may not be getting accurate information about the vaccine, so you need to help them learn about the evidence.
"Our teenagers are old enough that they could be part of this decision," says Dr. DeSilva "This is an age where we start to allow them to take responsibility with their health care, and this is a great opportunity to allow them to do so."
Lastly, for families who are concerned about fertility, Dr. DeSilva says the best way to protect fertility is to protect overall health. While some causes of infertility cannot be controlled, you can focus on everyday habits such as eating well and getting exercise.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, watch a video of our virtual town hall.
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause infertility. A pediatric gynecologist at Children's Health explains the facts behind the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility for parents who are considering vaccinating their child.
More COVID-19 resources
Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time. See more resources about the COVID-19 vaccine and ways to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID-19 hub.
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