SciCheck Digest

Public health officials around the world have explained that erectile dysfunction is not a side effect of COVID-19 vaccines, but a viral tweet from rapper Nicki Minaj has spread the unfounded claim that it is. There is no evidence to support that claim.

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Contrary to what rapper Nicki Minaj claimed in a viral tweet on Sept. 13, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause erectile dysfunction, or ED.

But there is some preliminary research that suggests COVID-19 itself may be associated with ED. We’ll explain more on that below.

Minaj’s tweet was one of several following her announcement that she wouldn’t attend the annual Met Gala due to the COVID-19 vaccine requirements for the event. Although Minaj expressed hesitancy about getting vaccinated in her tweets, she also said that she would likely get a vaccine before going on her next tour.

The tweet that went viral was vague, saying: “My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen.” But it garnered more than 110,000 likes and praise from conservative commentators who have sown doubt about the vaccines, such as Candace Owens and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Although Minaj didn’t specify which vaccine her cousin’s friend supposedly got or why she thought his condition was related, medical experts and public health authorities from around the world have said the claim that the vaccines could cause ED is false.

The health minister for Trinidad and Tobago, Terrence Deyalsingh, responded to the claim at a press conference on Sept. 15, saying, “As far as we know, at this point in time, there has been no such reported either side effect or adverse event. And what was sad about this is that it wasted our time yesterday trying to track down because we take all these claims seriously, whether it’s on social media or mainstream media.”

Dr. Sandro Demaio, who leads the health promotion foundation for the Australian state of Victoria, took to Twitter on Sept. 13 to say, “The covid vaccines DO NOT cause erectile disfunction or male infertility.” A Welsh public health site published a straight-forward post debunking the same claim in July, saying: “There have been no reports of impotence linked to vaccination and vaccination is recommended as a protection against this side-effect of Covid infection.”

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that those who are trying to have a baby — both male and female — get vaccinated against COVID-19. And Dr. Y. Sammy Choi, director of the department of research at Fort Bragg’s Womack Army Medical Center, said on a recent podcast, “There is no evidence that any of the vaccines leads to erectile dysfunction, sterility, infertility, in man or woman.”

Also, CNN host Jake Tapper asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a Sept. 14 interview to address Minaj’s post: “Is there any evidence that the Pfizer or the Moderna or the J&J vaccines cause any reproductive issues in men or women?”

“The answer to that, Jake, is a resounding no. There’s no evidence that it happens, nor is there any mechanistic reason to imagine that it would happen,” Fauci said, adding that “the only way we know to counter mis- and disinformation is to provide a lot of correct information and to essentially debunk these kinds of claims which, you know, may be innocent on her part.”

Infection with COVID-19, not COVID-19 Vaccination, May Be Associated with ED

So, as we said, experts agree there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause ED. But there is some preliminary evidence of a possible association between the disease COVID-19 and ED from two studies, though the authors stressed more research is needed.

A paper published in the journal Andrology in March found that the prevalence of ED was “significantly higher” in men who had tested positive for COVID-19. The study, which was done in Italy, included 25 men who had tested positive for COVID-19 and 75 men who had tested negative. The authors called for “more adequately tailored studies,” calling their study the first to investigate “the prevalence of ED and the possible association between ED and COVID-19 from real-life data in a large survey.”

And a much smaller pilot study done in the U.S. that involved two patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 and subsequently suffered from ED suggested that the disease “affects the penis,” according to Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine who worked on the study and wrote about it on the news website The Conversation. The study, the authors claimed, is “the first to demonstrate the presence of the COVID-19 virus in the penis long after the initial infection in humans.”

“[T]he research is only a first step on how COVID-19 might affect male sexual health; the samples were small,” Ramasamy wrote. “Studies should continue.”

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.

Sources

Allaire, Christian. “Everything We Know About the 2021 Met Gala.” Vogue. 12 Sep 2021.

Demaio, Sandro (@SandroDemaio). “The covid vaccines DO NOT cause erectile disfunction or male infertility. The coronavirus & DISEASE however, pose significant risks to health — and long covid has been linked to erectile disfunction, likely through its impacts on the body’s blood vessels. Get vaccinated!” Twitter. 13 Sep 2021.

Swansea Bay University Health Board. “Myth 6: The vaccines cause impotence in men.” Sbuhb.nhs.wales. Accessed 14 Sep 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “COVID-19 Vaccines for People Who Would Like to Have a Baby.” Updated 11 Aug 2021.

The 18th Airborne Corps Podcast. Episode 46: The COVID Vaccine (Again) – Vaccine Hesitancy and the Delta Variant. 20 Jul 2021.

The Lead with Jake Tapper. Transcript. CNN.com. 14 Sep 2021.

Sansone, Andrea, et al. “‘Mask up to keep it up’: Preliminary evidence of the association between erectile dysfunction and COVID-19.” Andrology. 20 Mar 2021.

Kresch, Eliyahu, et al. “COVID-19 Endothelial Dysfunction Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction: Histopathological, Immunohistochemical, and Ultrastructural Study of the Human Penis.” World Journal of Men’s Health. 7 May 2021.