Social media posts warn of miscarriages following COVID-19 shots, citing data from a US government reporting system. But a causal link between the two has not been established: the reports are not proof that a vaccine caused a problem, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is currently no evidence of an increase in miscarriages after COVID-19 immunization.
"Pregnant and waiting on your vaccine?" says a February 16, 2021 Facebook post, before listing information about 10 cases in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) that the post describes as miscarriages suffered by women who received COVID-19 vaccines.
A screenshot taken on February 18, 2021 shows part of a Facebook post
Similar posts appear on Facebook here and here, on Instagram here and here and on Twitter here. But VAERS -- the source cited in the posts -- makes clear that reports of incidents are not confirmation that they resulted from a vaccine.
As countries around the world seek to immunize their populations against COVID-19, inaccurate claims about the vaccines are spreading across the internet, despite efforts by social media companies to stop them and assurances from health authorities that the shots are safe and effective.
AFP Fact Check has debunked numerous claims about COVID-19 vaccines, including that they can cause female sterilization or contain a dangerous ingredient, that leading politicians faked receiving shots, and that baseball star Hank Aaron's death was linked to his immunization.
According to the Mayo Clinic, miscarriage "is a relatively common experience" and occurs in about 10-20 percent of known pregnancies, often when the fetus is not developing normally.
While reports of miscarriages following COVID-19 immunization have been submitted to VAERS, a description of the program's database says it "contains information on unverified reports of adverse events (illnesses, health problems and/or symptoms) following immunization with US-licensed vaccines."
The VAERS website also says these "reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness."
AFP Fact Check asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- which runs the VAERS program in concert with the Food and Drug Administration -- if it had identified any trends of miscarriages following COVID-19 immunization.
"To date, no evidence has indicated an increase in miscarriages after COVID-19 vaccines, and no concerning patterns of reporting have been observed," a spokesperson responded by email.
And Dr Benjamin Neuman, an expert in coronaviruses who chairs the Biological Sciences department at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, said by email that: "There is no association between vaccination and any aspect of reproduction."
A page on the CDC's website cautions that there is limited data about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women because its impact on them has not been studied.
But it also notes that the disease poses a heightened risk of severe illness to pregnant women, and says: "Based on how mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant."
The full list of AFP's fact checks in English on false or misleading claims about COVID-19 can be found here.
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