Fact check: No, interacting with a vaccinated person won’t cause miscarriage or menstrual changes
The claim: Being around COVID-19 vaccinated people can cause miscarriages or menstrual cycle changes
There’s a gender gap in the national vaccination rollout. Reports looking at state vaccine statistics show more women are getting vaccinated than men.
The finding is worrisome given men are more likely to die from COVID-19 than women — even though women make up a majority of confirmed cases in the U.S.
Experts say there are several reasons for this: Women tend to be more proactive about their health than men; most health care workers and schoolteachers, groups that received vaccine priority, are women; and women may be more motivated to get vaccinated for the safety of their families and to rejoin the workforce.
Nonetheless, fears about how the COVID-19 vaccine can detrimentally affect a woman’s reproductive health pervade social media. The latest of these claims: being around a vaccinated person could cause a woman to miscarry or affect her menstrual cycle.
“I am the only person in my office at work who has not been vaccinated (and I’m not planning on getting it), so I’m surrounded by vaccinated people. I had a miscarriage a few months back and my periods have been extremely inconsistent and very different than my previous periods in life,” reads one image shared in an April 17 Facebook post.
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Several other accompanying images, most of which appear to be screenshots of text messages, also claim drastic changes in periods, problems with infertility treatments and even abnormal bleeding despite being menopausal.
One image purports to explain how a vaccinated person is able to influence so much: viral shedding.
“A week ago we spent the day with my family who had (Moderna) & JJ recently. Three days later our kids got sick… I didn’t connect the dots on possible (viral) shedding until my period was late,” claims one image.
USA TODAY has reached out to the poster for further comment.
Claims of the COVID-19 vaccine causing miscarriage or infertility in women have been debunked by USA TODAY. Those claims, however, centered around a woman herself getting vaccinated.
While a person infected with COVID-19 does shed virus with coughing, sneezing or talking,a vaccinated person doesn’t carry or transmit any disease-causing particles. Experts say changes to a woman’s reproductive health because of this supposed exposure are pure fiction. Here’s why.
A vaccine is not contagious
Vaccines, biological preparations used to train the immune system to fight disease, only affect the person receiving them.
“There is no sort of mechanism that would even exist that would suggest in any way (a vaccine) could be transferred… or lead to a sequence of events that would alter pregnancy or a menstrual cycle,” said Carolyn Coyne, a microbiologist and professor of molecular genetics and biology at Duke University.
Coyne said COVID-19 vaccines are delivered to the body in very small particles covered in fat-like substances called lipids. Vaccines remain inside a cell once inside, never to be re-released again.
Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines use a type of DNA called mRNA that, when taken up by cells, is degraded once the coronavirus’s spike protein is manufactured.
The spike protein does remain in the body for sometime, but not forever and it similarly cannot be transmitted to another person, Coyne said.
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Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of the infectious diseases division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, agreed with Coyne, telling Reuters the mRNA vaccines “contain only instructions for making spike protein and are incapable of generating virus particles, so nothing can be shed.”
While the J&J vaccine relies on a different technology called a viral vector – a weakened common cold virus modified to contain genetic instructions for the spike protein’s construction – no other person, except for the vaccine recipient, can be affected.
But there is still a small chance of passing the virus even if one is vaccinated. This is because of new reports of people getting COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated, called vaccine breakthrough cases, or infections.
The number of these cases is still quite small – about 7,000 out of more than 87 million vaccinated, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This wasn’t unexpected because, while the vaccines have been shown to be greatly effective, they don’t prevent “illness 100 percent of the time,” the agency stated.
Miscarriage and menstrual changes happen often
The post attempts to link changes in menstruation and pregnancy to contact with vaccinated people, but the truth is changes in both situations happen relatively often. So any connected timing is coincidental, experts say.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 10% to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, although the actual frequency may be higher since “many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn’t realize she’s pregnant.”
Menstruation, or the period during a woman’s monthly cycle when the inner lining of the uterus is shed, is influenced by a multitude of factors such as weight loss or gain, eating disorders, stress, hormonal birth control, poor sleep and conditions like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome.
Between 9% and 14% of women can have irregular periods between their first period and the age when periods end, or menopause, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
There have been reports of COVID-19 infection affecting menstruation, but experts are still unclear how exactly. Anecdotes of women experiencing menstrual changes after getting the COVID-19 vaccine have also surfaced, but there has been no data to suggest a definitive link between the two.
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Our rating: False
We rate the claim that viral shedding from a COVID-19 vaccinated person can cause women to miscarry or experience menstrual changes FALSE, based on our research. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines only provide the body instructions on how to make the coronavirus spike protein. Neither the mRNA of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccines nor the viral vector of the J&J vaccine can replicate on their own or cause illness; similarly, the spike protein generated cannot be shed and infect others.
Miscarriage is unfortunately common, especially early during pregnancy, and menstrual changes can happen for a variety of reasons, both biological and lifestyle. There is limited data on how COVID-19 infection or the coronavirus vaccine can impact a woman’s cycle and periods..
Our fact-check sources:
- Kaiser Health News, April 12, “The Gender Vaccine Gap: More Women Than Men Are Getting Covid Shots”
- Global Health 5050, accessed April 23, “The COVID-19 Sex-Disaggregated Data Tacker”
- The New York Times, April 22, “What Do Women Want? For Men to Get Covid Vaccines.”
- USA TODAY, April 12, “Fact check: No evidence of miscarriage surge since vaccine rollout”
- USA TODAY, Dec. 14, 2020, “Fact check: A false post on social media claims COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in women”
- American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, Sept. 1, 2020, “Coughs and Sneezes: Their Role in Transmission of Respiratory Viral Infections, Including SARS-CoV-2”
- Carolyn Coyne, April 27, phone interview.
- Reuters, April 23, “Fact Check-COVID vaccines do not ‘shed’ from one person to another and then cause reproductive problems”
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed April 26, “COVID-19 Breakthrough Case Investigations and Reporting”
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 21, “What You Should Know About the Possibility of COVID-19 Illness After Vaccination”
- MedPage Today, June 29, 2020, “Does COVID Mess With the Menstrual Cycle”
- Mayo Clinic, July 16, 2019, “Miscarriage”
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 5, “People at Increased Risk – Pregnant People”
- Johns Hopkins Medicine, Feb. 4, “Coronavirus and Pregnancy: What You Should Know”
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Women’s Health, March 16, 2018,, “Your menstrual cycle”
- MedicalNewsToday, Jan. 5, 2020, “14 possible causes for irregular periods”
- University of Pennsylvania Medicine, Nov. 2, 2020, “Irregular Periods: Why is My Period Late?”
- Medical News Today, Feb. 17, “Long COVID and periods: The unspoken impact on female well-being”
- The Lily, April 5, “Can the vaccine make your period worse? These women say yes.”
- The New England Journal of Medicine, April 23, “Preliminary Findings of mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine Safety in Pregnant Persons”
- White House via YouTube, April 23, “Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials”
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
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