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Fact Check-No evidence that COVID-19 vaccination negatively impacts male fertility

Claims that COVID-19 vaccination causes male infertility are still unsupported, experts told Reuters, despite recent social media posts reviving the longstanding allegation.

During the first days of April, some internet users pointed to an article on a website called Study Finds ( here ), entitled: “Male infertility may be a new symptom of long COVID.” Some users commenting on the piece have inaccurately suggested that COVID-19 vaccination – not so-called long COVID - is what causes infertility.

“More likely the shot. Another cover up,” wrote a Twitter user commenting on a tweet with a screenshot of the headline ( here ). “Blame it on everything except the Vaccine,” a second one posted ( here )

The recently highlighted Study Finds report referred to a small study published by scientific magazine ACS Omega on March 7, 2022 ( here ) that analyzed the proteins in the semen of 10 “healthy fertile subjects” and 17 “COVID-19 recovered men.” Researchers found an alteration of semen proteome ( here ) in recovered patients, which authors considered was a disruption in the male reproductive function after clinical remission.

Long COVID, with some 200 reported afflictions that include fatigue, chest pain and brain fog, is defined by symptoms that last longer than 3 months. It sidelines people who have had both mild and severe COVID-19, including children. In the United States, it is estimated to have affected 1-in-7 working age adults. ( here )

Reuters has previously addressed claims linking COVID-19 vaccination with male infertility ( here ) ( here ) or infertility in general ( here ).

“There is no evidence indicating that the COVID vaccine can cause male infertility,” Amelia Wesselink, Research Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health told Reuters via email on April 11, 2022.

Wesselink is lead author of a National Institutes of Health-funded study of more than 2,000 couples trying to conceive without a fertility treatment. The study found no association between vaccination in either partner and fertility. ( here )

Ranjith Ramasamy, Associate Professor of Urology at the University of Miami concurred there is a lack of evidence and pointed Reuters to a 2021 peer-reviewed study in which he and other researchers evaluated 45 men fully vaccinated with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. ( here )

“[They] did not see a decrease in any of their sperm parameters such as semen, volume, sperm concentration, or total motile sperm count,” Ramasamy said, adding that mRNA vaccines “remain safe in the general population and effective in preventing severe illness.”

WHAT ABOUT COVID-19 INFECTION?

While there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination can negatively impact male fertility, there is data that suggests COVID-19 infection can, at least in the short-term and temporarily.

Some studies have shown that men infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience a decrease in sperm parameters, but these seem to return to normal over time, said Ramasamy. For example, a study published in Fertility and Sterility found reduced sperm motility and count in people that had been infected with COVID-19 and recovered months earlier. ( here ) ( here ) . The authors cautioned further follow-up studies were taking place to determine if permanent damage might occur in a minority of men.

The study led by Wesselink ( here ) found that couples in which the male partner had tested positive within 60 days of a given menstrual cycle, were “18% less likely to conceive.” There was no difference, however, for couples with a male partner recovered for longer than 60 days, compared to couples in which a male partner had not been infected.

Available data from research in men ( here ) and macaques ( here ) have found presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the male genital track, even after recovery.

Furthermore, some men might experience orchitis (swollen testicles) after being COVID-positive ( here ). This “can cause testicular damage and thought to also cause changes in semen parameters,” Ramasamy added.

In its latest recommendation, updated on March 3, 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends COVID-19 vaccination for “people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners.” ( here )

As of April 12, 2022 the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) continues to recommend that the COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to men “desiring fertility” and who meet criteria for vaccination ( here )

VERDICT

False. At the time of publishing this article, there is still no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination is linked to male infertility, experts told Reuters. There is some evidence that COVID-19 infection can disrupt male fertility at least temporarily.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here    .         

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