The young women who refuse a Covid shot because they fear it could harm fertility

‘I don’t trust it, even though the rest of my family has had it,’ says Billie, 31, a PR consultant who lives in London

Billie Gianfrancesco would love to have children, but since she’s single and successive lockdowns have made it difficult to meet anyone, she’s worried time isn’t on her side.

Social media reports that the Covid-19 vaccine could affect female fertility has fueled her fears, leading her to decline the shot when it was offered.

“I don’t trust it, even though the rest of my family has had it,” said Billie, 31, a PR consultant who lives in London.

So far, she has resisted the pleas of her younger sister, who is a mental health social worker, and her mother, who advised her not to believe “fake news” about the jab, to get vaccinated.

Billie says he knows the coronavirus is serious and sympathizes with those who have lost loved ones, but adds: ‘I personally don’t know anyone who has had more than mild flu symptoms from it.

“But I do know someone my age who got a blood clot not long after he got the AstraZeneca vaccine in March,” adding that it took doctors eight weeks to figure out it might be related to the vaccine.

“Now we hear in the news that it could affect women’s periods – and who knows how that could affect our fertility in the future? I’m not willing to take the risk.’

She points to the recent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) report that it had received nearly 4,000 accounts from women in the UK who said they had experienced changes in their periods after the jab.

The reports — 2,734 were from women who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine, 1,158 were related to the Pfizer shot and 66 to the Moderna vaccine — came through the MHRA’s Yellow Card Scheme, set up to help monitor the safety of all medications.

A variety of changes were noted, the most common of which was heavier bleeding.

The Department of Health says there is no evidence of an increased risk of menstrual disorders due to the Covid-19 vaccination, as the number of reports is extremely low compared to the number of women of childbearing age in the UK who have been vaccinated ( an estimated 4.5 million have had their double dose).

Still, this doesn’t seem to carry much weight with Billie or others like her – with women ages 18 to 34 emerging as the group most likely to refuse the shot, with many having fertility as their number one concern. – according to a survey of 55,000 Britons by market researchers. Find out now in December 2020.

And now the latest figures show that the number of first doses administered is falling, halving in 14 days if younger people reject the vaccine.

These include Olivia Massey, 22, a Flintshire real estate agent.

Olivia, who has irregular periods and doesn’t want to “make things worse,” first became concerned after reading a report online in December last year claiming the vaccine could affect fertility.

Social media reports that the Covid-19 vaccine could affect female fertility fueled her fears, leading her to decline the shot when offered

Social media reports that the Covid-19 vaccine could affect female fertility fueled her fears, leading her to decline the shot when offered

Despite ‘um-ing and ah-ing’ when she received her vaccination invitation in April (younger people in Wales were more likely to be invited than in England), she ultimately decided against it, despite being encouraged to get the shot by her already vaccinated parents and older friends.

“My friends already have kids, so they don’t have to worry,” she says. “I’ve read a few things online about women having menstrual problems after the vaccinations and while that’s not scientific evidence I don’t want to take any chances.”

One of the most blatant stories about fake vaccines surfaced last November with claims that the “head of Pfizer research” had called the Pfizer vaccine “sterilization of women.”

It turned out he hadn’t said this and although he is a lockdown skeptic, he hadn’t worked for the company for nearly a decade.

But anti-vaxxer groups have picked up such stories and gained hundreds of thousands of views on social media.

But as Dr Viki Male, a reproductive immunologist at Imperial College London, points out: ‘We don’t have enough information to know if these menstrual changes are related to the vaccine and not to some other factor. What we do know is that there’s no evidence it affects fertility,” she says, citing three separate findings.

The first is that some of the women who took part accidentally became pregnant after receiving either the vaccine or the placebo.

The pregnancy rate was similar for vaccinated and unvaccinated groups, “which tells us that the vaccine does not prevent people from getting pregnant,” says Dr Male.

Second, three studies of IVF patients, some of whom had the vaccine, some of whom had Covid, while others had neither, ‘again, there was no difference in pregnancy rates between those who had the vaccine and those who didn’t. had,” says Dr Male.

And finally, in late March, the US equivalent of the Yellow Card system received reports of 4,804 pregnancies in women who had received the vaccine (but were not involved in studies).

“That tells you that a lot of women are getting pregnant and this is probably an underestimate of the true number, because these are just the people who report themselves to the tracking system.”

The online rumors are thought to stem from the fact that all vaccines program the body to produce a protein called Spike. This imitates a viral protein, causing the body to make antibodies.

Spike is thought to be similar to a protein called syncytin-1 that is used by the body to make the placenta, so some anti-vaxxers argue that this means the vaccine can prompt the body to attack the placenta, as if it were a virally infected cell.

But dr. Male says this isn’t true, because viral and placental proteins aren’t similar enough to confuse the body — “and lab studies have confirmed this to be the case,” she says.

“If antibodies to Spike were causing problems for the placenta, we would expect miscarriages in those who become infected with Covid-19 and we are not seeing this.”

While changes in the menstrual cycle may be an unrecognized side effect of the Covid-19 shot, it is by no means unusual for a vaccine to have such an effect.

A 2018 study from Johns Hopkins University in the US analyzed hormone levels after the flu vaccine and found that some of the 100 participants had a reduction in progesterone levels (which helps prepare the uterus for possible pregnancy), which can slow the menstrual cycle. to influence.

Another study, involving 3,000 teenage girls in Japan, found that some reported heavier or irregular periods after vaccination against HPV, the journal Papillo-mavirus Research reported in 2018.

Both studies show that while vaccines can affect the menstrual cycle, the effect is temporary, says Dr Male. “From what we already know about vaccines, any effects are usually seen within ten to 28 days of the shot, so it’s unlikely that a woman who is fertile a month after the vaccine won’t be fertile five years later.”

dr. Male adds that the reports to the MHRA about irregular periods could simply be coincidence, stress or the fact that Covid itself is disrupting the menstrual cycle.

“We also know that factors such as gaining or losing weight can affect your period, which is why it’s so hard to say whether the vaccine is definitely causing this. But we are convinced that the vaccine will not affect fertility.’

dr. Pat O’Brien, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, added: ‘In every clinic I visit, I see at least two or three women who are menstruating regularly and suddenly notice that they have gained weight or become irregular. . So it could be a coincidence.

“However, there is no plausible scientific mechanism by which the vaccine could impair fertility, nor is there any evidence that this is the case.”

Both Billie and Olivia say they may have the vaccine in the next few years. As Olivia explains, “Maybe I’ll do it when I’m older. But I don’t want to risk it until I’ve had my family.’

Billie says, ‘I’m not going to say ‘I’ll never have it’. But I would like to wait until the full medical examinations are completed in 2023.”

Medical metaphors

The turns of phrase with a scientific link. This week: Music to my ears.

Generally used to describe something you want to hear, the music you listen to is really only what you understand as music, and only for your ears.

A 2019 study of the Tsimané people of the Bolivian Amazon found that when a group was asked to sing back a simple melody consisting of only two notes, they sang it at a different pitch and with a third note in between.

The researchers, from a number of American institutions, also asked a group of Americans who were familiar with Western music to sing back the same melody, which they did at the same pitch.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, suggests that the Western musical characteristics we use to understand sound — such as octaves — may be “culturally contingent.”