European Union didn’t advise against COVID vaccines for pregnant women
CLAIM: The European Union is now advising that pregnant women should not receive COVID-19 vaccines because of the risk of infertility and miscarriage.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The European Medicines Agency continues to support COVID-19 immunizations for pregnant women, the agency confirmed. An announcement that concerns menstrual bleeding, which is being cited to spread the false claim, is from October 2022 and explicitly stated that the vaccines are still safe before and during pregnancy.
THE FACTS: There is no evidence the vaccines cause fertility issues in men or women. But spurious claims about the vaccines continue to swirl online, more than two years since their December 2020 debut.
Social media users this week falsely asserted that the European Union had changed its tune on the vaccines by now recommending against pregnant women receiving the shots.
“The European Union is now warning pregnant women not to get the COVID-19 vaccine due to the possibility of infertility and miscarriage,” reads one popular Wednesday tweet that was also shared on Instagram.
But there was no such announcement, the European Medicines Agency confirmed to The Associated Press.
“The claims circulating online alleging that EMA is advising pregnant women not to receive COVID-19 vaccines as these would ‘cause infertility’ are false,” the agency said in a statement.
In fact, the agency’s website currently states: “People who are pregnant or who might become pregnant soon are encouraged to receive COVID-19 vaccines in line with national recommendations.”
The Twitter account sharing the claim cited a statement from the EMA that said its risk assessment committee had “recommended that heavy menstrual bleeding should be added to the product information as a side effect of unknown frequency of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines Comirnaty and Spikevax,” referring to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, respectively.
That announcement, while accurate, is from October 2022 and actually said the data at the time continued to provide “reassurance” about using the vaccines both before and during pregnancy.
“After reviewing the data, the Committee concluded that there is at least a reasonable possibility that the occurrence of heavy menstrual bleeding is causally associated with these vaccines and therefore recommended the update of the product information,” the EMA said. “The available data reviewed involved mostly cases which appeared to be non-serious and temporary in nature.”
The announcement added: “There is no evidence to suggest the menstrual disorders experienced by some people have any impact on reproduction and fertility. Available data provides reassurance about the use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines before and during pregnancy.”
Some online suggested that heavy menstrual bleeding was in and of itself evidence that the vaccines cause fertility issues. But experts say that’s not the case.
“While certain causes of heavy menstrual bleeding can affect fertility, such as fibroids, heavy bleeding, on its own, does not affect fertility,” Dr. Katharine White, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University, told the AP in an email. “Any heaviness of a menses after the COVID vaccine is likely to be a short-term change, and thus, there’s no reason it should affect the chances of getting pregnant.”
White said menstrual cycle disruptions in general “may affect fertility, in that if cycle timing is inconsistent (some cycles long, some short), it can be harder to time intercourse with ovulation.” But that can be overcome by increasing the frequency of sex when trying to conceive, she added.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.