Some people who believe baseless conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines are wearing masks and staying distanced from others—but not exactly for scientifically sound reasons. They’re not worried about the coronavirus, but they are concerned about “vaccine shedding,” Vice reports. However, based on the way the vaccines work, that is definitely not worth worrying about.
There are a few different versions of the theory, Vice explains. But they all generally (and incorrectly) suggest that people who’ve had the vaccines can “shed” proteins or other particles that can supposedly then go on to affect people near them, including possibly inducing miscarriages or other fertility issues. That’s why some people who believe this COVID-19 conspiracy theory have decided to wear masks and/or stay socially distanced from people they know who’ve had the vaccines, according to Vice.
The idea seems to be connected to the fact that people who have a viral infection can shed particles of the virus that may infect others. In the case of people who have COVID-19, that shedding occurs most often when they cough, laugh, sneeze, or yell. But none of the vaccines contains any live coronavirus, so they can’t give someone the actual infection. So, in reality, there is nothing to shed.
As a reminder, there are two vaccines available in the U.S. that rely on mRNA technology (from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) to teach the body to produce its own version of the spike protein that the coronavirus uses to infect our cells. With that, the body can then build up a protective immune response to the virus. The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine uses a modified (and inactive) form of an adenovirus to create that immune response. Again, none of these vaccines can cause you to shed viral particles.
And the claims that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause miscarriages or negatively affect fertility are also baseless. For instance, a large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year found that rates of pregnancy loss and preterm birth among nearly 35,700 pregnant people who received a COVID-19 vaccine were similar to the average rates of those events in other studies before the pandemic. Other smaller studies have seen similar results, suggesting that pregnant people are not at an increased risk for major side effects from the vaccine or other effects, like a miscarriage.
You also don’t need to be worried that getting the vaccine might affect your fertility or your ability to conceive in the future, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say. “There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems,” the CDC says. “If you are trying to become pregnant, you do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.”
But, as most of us know by now, wearing a face mask and staying at least six feet away from others are two crucial ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and limit the toll of the coronavirus pandemic. If COVID-19 conspiracy theories like these get otherwise skeptical people on board with those public health measures, that could be a bit of a win.
“Wrong reasons, right answer,” Angela Rasmussen, Ph.D., a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, said on Twitter. Still, it’s better for them to actually get vaccinated, she explained.
With three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. now and all adults in the country eligible to get one, it’s easier than ever to take this crucial step to help protect yourself and those around you. If you’re not sure where to get one near you, check out the new vaccines.gov site, which will point you in the direction of a vaccination site. And in the meantime, of course, keep wearing your mask and staying socially distanced when appropriate.