Video misrepresents study on COVID-19 vaccines and male fertility
CLAIM: A new study shows that a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine decreases sperm count and after a third shot “it’s almost unrecoverable.”
AP’S ASSESSMENT: Partly false. A new Israeli study did report a reduction in sperm count about three months after a second dose of Pfizer’s vaccine — but the effect was temporary and disappeared in subsequent samples. Experts say this is likely due to a fever, which can follow vaccination or infection and temporarily affect sperm production. The Israeli study did not examine the effects of a third dose.
THE FACTS: In a widely viewed video shared on Instagram this week, one man claims that “sperm count in men is declining at a rapid rate and it’s all because of the vaccine.”
“New studies have shown that after the second shot there’s a 22% decrease in sperm count and after the third shot, after the third booster, it’s almost unrecoverable,” he continues. “Almost half a billion men have been vaccinated. Now what is going to happen with society?”
A recent Israeli study in the journal Andrology did find that there was a temporary reduction in sperm count of about 22% among samples from donors three months after the second dose of Pfizer’s vaccine.
But an author of the study told The Associated Press the findings were not cause for alarm, and are typical of what’s seen with a fever.
“The observation we saw, which is characterized by ‘window’ of impairment 3 months after vaccination, is very similar to previously reported sperm decline after common febrile diseases (such as flu),” Dr. Itai Gat, of the Shamir Medical Center in Israel, said in an email.
The researchers found at six months that the reduction “disappeared,” Gat said. “We came to the conclusion that impairment is temporary and long term outcome remains good.”
In a 2021 statement on the COVID-19 vaccines, two organizations focused on male reproduction also noted that fevers in general — including from COVID-19 infection or vaccination — can temporarily affect sperm production.
“Fevers can cause temporary declines in sperm production,” reads the statement from the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology and the Society for the Study of Male Reproduction. “Thus, if a man experiences fever as the result of the COVID-19 vaccine, he may experience a temporary decline in sperm production, but that would be similar to or less than if the individual experienced fever from developing COVID-19 or for other reasons.”
Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at the University of Miami’s health system, who has separately researched the issue, told the AP the Israeli study was small but added interesting information to the field.
It “would be among the first to demonstrate that COVID-19 vaccines (specifically Pfizer) could lead to a decrease in sperm parameters in the short-term,” Ramasamy said in an email.
“Importantly, the authors note that unlike the actual SARS-CoV-2 virus that can cross the blood-testis barrier and impact the local testicular environment — these temporary decreases described in this study are most likely attributed to the fever some people experience with vaccination,” Ramasamy said.
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.