CHICAGO, July 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Google searches
related to infertility and coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines
increased by 34,900% after a pair of physicians submitted a
petition questioning the safety and efficacy data of the COVID-19
Pfizer vaccine. Referencing the petition, anti-vaccine activists
circulated claims that misconstrued the information regarding the
possibility that the vaccine could impact fertility in women.
The inaccurately represented information spread rapidly on
social media channels, potentially influencing public perception
and decision-making among pregnant patients or those seeking to
become pregnant, according to research published in the Journal
of Osteopathic Medicine. This happened despite the fact
that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the US Food and Drug
Administration issued emergency use authorization for the
vaccine, deeming the concerns in the petition insignificant.
"Misinformation is a significant threat to healthcare today and
a main driver of vaccine hesitancy," said Nicholas Sajjadi, a study researcher and
third-year osteopathic medical student at Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic
Medicine. "We're seeing well-intentioned research and concerns
taken out of context to stoke fear and anxiety about
The making of a misinformation campaign
On December 1, 2020, Drs. Wolfgang
Wodarg and Michael Yeadon petitioned
to withhold emergency use authorization of the BNT162b2 mRNA
vaccine for COVID-19 manufactured by BioNTech and Pfizer. The
petitioners raised unfounded concerns that female infertility could
arise from vaccine-induced antibodies. It is important to note
that the petitioners acknowledged the absence of any evidence
associating female infertility risks with COVID-19 vaccines.
Anti-vaccine advocates seized on this concern to create a
misinformation claim misrepresenting the EMA petition, and the
public turned to Google to understand if the information was
legitimate. At peak interest, the Google search terms
"infertility," "infertility AND vaccine," and "infertility AND
COVID vaccine" experienced increases of 119.9%, 11,251%, and
34,900%, respectively, when compared with forecasted values.
"I'm disappointed this misinformation occurred, but I am pleased
to see spikes in searches because it reflects genuine interest and
suggests that people are doing their research and trying to make
informed decisions," said J. Martin
Beal, DO, an OB-GYN with Tulsa OB-GYN Associates. "What I'd
like to emphasize to patients is that your doctor would love to
have this conversation with you to help clarify any questions or
concerns you may have. Additionally, I highly encourage getting
vaccinated—it will protect you and the baby."
Support for COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
currently recommends that COVID-19 vaccines not be withheld from
pregnant patients who meet criteria for vaccination based on
priority groups recommended by the Advisory Committee on
Immunization Practices and those at increased risk for
COVID-19 acquisition, such as women healthcare workers.
"Dispelling misinformation and informing patients about the
risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination, or other misrepresented
claims, can save lives and slow the spread of disease," said
Sajjadi. "In the battle to fight misinformation, Google Trends can
be an effective tool to help physicians recognize and proactively
address false claims with patients."
About the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine
The Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, founded in 1901 and
known for 119 years as The Journal of the American
Osteopathic Association, is the premier scholarly,
peer-reviewed publication of the osteopathic medical profession.
JOM conducts peer review of academic research manuscripts
from a wide variety of medical specialties, covering the full
spectrum of clinical settings in which osteopathic physicians
practice. All submissions are vetted by a distinguished group of
Section Editors led by Editor-in-Chief Ross
Zafonte, DO, and supported by a full Editorial Board.
View original content to download
SOURCE American Osteopathic Association