Worries that the COVID-19 vaccine could cause infertility are among the reasons people give for avoiding vaccination. While there’s no evidence any of the COVID vaccines cause problems with fertility, becoming severely ill from the disease has the potential to do so, reproduction experts say, making vaccination all the more important.
Researchers have been studying the effects of COVID on the human reproductive system since the beginning of the pandemic. While there’s no evidence that Covid can be sexually transmitted, research suggests that the cells in the reproductive system are feasible targets for the virus, because they carry some of the receptors the coronavirus must bind to in order to enter cells.
The idea that a virus could cause infertility is not unprecedented. “We do have historic evidence that there are certain viruses that are more likely to impact either male or female fertility,” said Dr. Jennifer Kawwass, a reproductive endocrinologist and associate professor at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
For example, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV infections have all been linked to decreased fertility. It’s unclear, however, if a respiratory virus, like the coronavirus, could have the same effect. But the fact that male and female reproductive organs have the receptors the COVID virus targets means it’s certainly plausible that the virus could cause fertility issues, she said.
Moreover, the symptoms of COVID — primarily fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit for at least three days — are known to cause fertility issues, especially in men.
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