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Posts erroneously cite ‘clinical studies’ to back Nicki Minaj’s vaccine claim

September 22, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Clinical studies show that Nicki Minaj was correct that COVID-19 vaccines cause testicular swelling.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Social media posts referencing purported “clinical studies” actually cite data on unverified reports submitted to VAERS, which alone are not evidence that the vaccine is responsible for the events reported.

THE FACTS: Days after Nicki Minaj amplified an unfounded theory that the COVID-19 vaccines are linked to sexual dysfunction in men, social media users have advanced an erroneous claim that the rapper’s claims are supported by “clinical studies.”

Minaj last week shared with her more than 22 million Twitter followers an unverified story about a cousin’s friend in Trinidad who, she said, “became impotent” and whose “testicles became swollen” after receiving the vaccine.

Experts told The Associated Press that there is no evidence to support the claim that the COVID-19 vaccines result in those side effects.

“Fundamentally, we just have no study linking the vaccine to either swollen testicles or erectile dysfunction,” Dr. Ashley Winter, a urologist specializing in sexual dysfunction at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon, said last week.

A tweet—featured in other social media posts this week—claimed otherwise, saying that “#nikkiminaj -- was right. I can’t laugh at her anymore. I’m finding clinical studies where the ‘jab’ caused testicular swelling, pain, and other side effects for males.”

But the tweet didn’t cite any studies. Instead, it linked to a website that cites data from the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS.

The website presented 66 reports in which individuals said they experienced testicular swelling after taking a COVID-19 vaccine. For context, more than 212 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

VAERS reports, however, are not vetted and do not prove causation, as the AP has reported.

Anyone can submit a report to VAERS on any possible reaction following vaccination. Health care providers are required to submit reports even if it’s unclear if the vaccine caused the adverse event. The tool acts as a form of surveillance, and can provide early warning signals of issues with a vaccine to federal health officials.

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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.