We're over a year into the pandemic, so obviously, a new anti-vaccine myth just dropped. In a surreal, full-circle moment, the same people who once mocked mask-wearers are now going out of their way to avoid vaccinated individuals, out of fear that they could "shed" the vaccine or the COVID-19 virus. The main theory circulating around anti-vax corners of Facebook and Instagram is that "vaccine shedding" could impact fertility and pregnancy. There are several reasons this is completely false, so let's jump in.
According to anti-vax conspiracy theorists, vaccinated people can shed the COVID-19 virus (specifically, one of its proteins) simply by breathing. But all of the COVID vaccines are mRNA-based vaccines, meaning that they work by instructing your immune cells to create proteins that help your body recognize the virus and create an immune response. In other words, when you're jabbed, you aren't infected with the live virus the way you are when you receive, say, the flu shot.
Experts also say it's extremely unlikely you'll shed the virus after receiving a vaccine like the flu shot, but with the COVID vaccine, it's scientifically impossible. Even if the mRNA found in the vaccine were somehow dangerous, it wouldn't be able to stay in someone's body for longer than 24 hours, an Infectious Disease Society of America spokesperson told Health. mRNA molecules are very fragile and prone to rapid degradation, which also explains why the COVID vaccines have such specific storage requirements.
Furthermore, claims that the vaccine impacts fertility are completely unfounded. "There is zero science to this claim," infectious disease epidemiologist Jessica Malaty Rivera, MS previously told Refinery29. "This is a myth that is so damaging. It's made up to incite fear, and is ripped straight from the anti-vax playbook from the HPV vaccine. It's an unoriginal and unscientific claim."
Dr. Christopher Zahn, vice president for Practice Activities at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told Reuters that the vaccine shedding myth is "a conspiracy that has been created to weaken trust in a series of vaccines that have been demonstrated in clinical trials to be safe and effective."
In April, a private school co-founder in Miami, FL announced that vaccinated teachers would not be allowed to return to her school. The city of Kelowna, British Columbia is currently looking to take action against a business owner who has banned vaccinated people from entering his store. Some establishments have hung up signs, requesting that anyone who's been jabbed refrain from entering. "Please do not be mad at us. Be mad at the manufactures," reads one, which circulated around Twitter. "We have a pregnant staff member, and this is for her protection and ours."
But vaccines have proven to be safe for pregnant people. Ironically, Malaty Rivera told Refinery29 that contracting COVID-19 is what could really pose a serious health risk to someone carrying a baby. Also ironically, the authorized vaccines have proven overwhelmingly effective at preventing the virus that does shed easily: COVID-19.
So, if someone is concerned about a nonexistent live virus that lives in the vaccine, what they should really try to protect themselves against is the virus itself.