Rapper’s tweet shares unfounded claims about vaccine side effects
CLAIM: COVID-19 vaccines cause impotency and swollen testicles.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Experts say that there is no scientific support for the claim that coronavirus vaccines result in those side effects.
THE FACTS: There is no evidence from available research to suggest COVID-19 vaccines cause erectile dysfunction, swelling of the testicles or male infertility.
The unfounded claims received considerable attention Monday after rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted to her more than 22.6 million followers an unverified story about a cousin’s friend in Trinidad. Minaj asserted the unidentified individual “became impotent” and “his testicles became swollen” after receiving the shot.
The specifics of the claim aren’t clear. A representative for Minaj did not return requests for more information. But experts say there is no data to support the idea that the vaccines cause erectile dysfunction or swollen testicles.
“We have never seen that,” said Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at the University of Miami’s health system.
Orchitis, a condition that can result in swollen testicles, can follow a bacterial infection, such as a sexually transmitted infection. Ramasamy said that while orchitis and erectile dysfunction have not been linked to coronavirus vaccines, there is some evidence suggesting they could be associated with a COVID-19 infection.
Dr. Ashley Winter, a urologist specializing in sexual dysfunction at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon, agreed there is no indication that the vaccine negatively impacts male sexual function or the testicles overall.
“On a population level, hundreds of millions of men have gotten this vaccine and there’s no study showing reduced erectile function in men who have been vaccinated,” she said. “Fundamentally, we just have no study linking the vaccine to either swollen testicles or erectile dysfunction.”
Furthermore, experts say there is no established link between COVID-19 vaccines and male infertility or lower sperm counts.
Ramasamy served as senior author of a June study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found no significant decreases in the sperm count of 45 healthy, vaccinated men. The men were assessed before receiving either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and 70 days after receiving their second dose.
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.