Representative image Photograph:( Reuters )
Among the worst examples of such misinformation spread on Facebook are that immunised men can render unvaccinated women sterile through sex, that 97 per cent of vaccine recipients will become infertile and that the jabs could be 'sterilising an entire generation'
False claims that Covid-19 vaccines can cause infertility are discouraging Americans from receiving the shots and leaving health professionals to persuade patients that scare stories they have read online are unfounded.
Among the worst examples of such misinformation spread on Facebook are that immunised men can render unvaccinated women sterile through sex, that 97 per cent of vaccine recipients will become infertile and that the jabs could be 'sterilising an entire generation'.
With vaccine uptake already slowing, the claims are a threat to the Biden administration's goal of achieving herd immunity in the United States.
Research published earlier this month showed about two-thirds of those who said they will 'definitely not' get a vaccine were worried about the impact on their fertility.
And about half of unvaccinated people say they are concerned "the Covid vaccine may negatively impact their fertility in the future," Ashley Kirzinger, associate director of public opinion and survey research at Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy nonprofit that conducted the study, said.
Some 50 per cent of women and 47 per cent of men aged 18 to 49, who had not yet been vaccinated say they have such fears.
The initial exclusion of pregnant women from Covid vaccine trials created space for falsehoods, and the latest effort by anti-vaccine groups coincides with fewer people stepping forward for inoculations.
"They are largely just recycling things that scare people about previous vaccines onto these new vaccines, whether or not it makes scientific sense," said Devon Greyson, health communications professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The messages are targeting women because "fertility is just one of those things that we react so strongly to, and it's so personal," Greyson added. "So, if you're looking for a bogeyman, 'It will make you infertile' is a really good one."
(With inputs from agencies)