Google searches for vaccine-related infertility up 34,900% — how a physician + former Pfizer exec ignited the rumor

Google searches for COVID-19 vaccines and infertility increased by 34,900 percent after a physician and former Pfizer executive submitted a petition with claims that the vaccine was linked to infertility, according to a report published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine.

Five things to know:

  1. Wolfgang Wodarg, MD, and former Pfizer vice president Michael Yeadon submitted a petition in Europe questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, a news release shared with Becker's said.

  2. The Dec. 1 petition said female infertility could result from vaccine-induced antibodies. The petitioners acknowledged there wasn't evidence to back their claim up, the release said.

  3. Activists concerned with the safety of the vaccine used the petition to spread claims that the vaccine can cause infertility. The European Medicines Agency and the FDA said the petition's claims were insignificant, but the misinformation had already spread through social media. 

  4. By March, researchers from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and Tulsa, Okla.-based Ascension St. John Medical Center found Google searches had exploded. Searches for "infertility" increased 119.9 percent; searches for "infertility and vaccine" increased 11,241 percent; and searches for "infertility and COVID vaccine" rose 34,900 percent.

  5. "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 at 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."

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