Politifact’s Madison Czopek Spreads No-Risk Misinformation about Vaccine, Fertility Risks
- Insufficient evidence, premature conclusions leave many risks currently unknown
- Czopek cites opinions from medical authorities as evidence that the vaccines pose ‘no risk’ to fertility but with currently insufficient data, no definitive claims can be made
- Czopek rates a claim ‘false’ by ignoring context and lack of robust scientific data
OUR RATING: Trash Journalism, aka the Daily Beast.
Indicted Outlet: Madison Czopek | Politifact | Link | Archive
In this fact check, Czopek says there is no evidence to back up the claim made by Sherri Tenpenny that “[officials] recommend that women who get one of these (COVID-19) shots should absolutely not get pregnant for at least the first two months after they’ve been injected.” In order to rate this claim ‘false’, Czopek paints an incomplete and biased picture of COVID-19 vaccinations and the dangers they pose to female fertility.
- Superficial Investigation
- Missing Context
- Premature Conclusions
- Bad Sources
It makes chronological sense to start with Czopek’s second claim that “[there] is…no evidence that public health officials or the companies that produce the mRNA vaccines have advised people to pause efforts to conceive a child or to avoid unprotected sex for a period of time after they are vaccinated.”
Czopek rates this claim false by doing a superficial investigation of the matter. If we look back to when the vaccine first came out, this was definitely a recommendation.
Back in December, “Guidance in the United Kingdom [said] people who are not pregnant when they become eligible for the vaccine should wait two months after receiving the second shot before trying to conceive.” 
On December 6, Public Health England advised pregnant woman thus on the Pfizer vaccine: “if you know you are not pregnant you can start the two-dose course now and you should avoid getting pregnant until at least 2 months after the second dose…if you have had the first dose and then become pregnant you should delay the second dose until after the pregnancy is over.”  
So, there were definitely health experts who cautioned women against trying to get pregnant after taking the vaccine.  Czopek incorrectly rates this claim false by ignoring inconvenient facts.
Czopek’s second claim is that “[there] is no evidence the mRNA vaccines cause infertility or pose serious risks to those who are vaccinated while trying to get pregnant.” In order to make this claim, Czopek ignores context, cites biased sources, and makes premature conclusions on the basis of her appeals to authority.
Czopek cites the CDC and a spokesperson for Pfizer who says there “are no data to suggest that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine causes infertility.”
The Pfizer spokesperson, who is the perhaps the most biased source Czopek could have found, says that there is no data to suggest such a thing. On a theoretical basis the spike protein in the vaccine is not similar enough to surface proteins in the placenta to endanger it, thus “it is very unlikely that it could lead to the body generating an immune response that would result in the body attacking itself or the placenta.” Unlikely, however, does not mean never. A fact check should have a higher level of certainty than this.
Furthermore, debunking one theory about spike protein similarities does not preclude the possibility of an adverse outcome that scientists and vaccine supporters cannot predict because there is so little data available on the effects of the vaccine on fertility.
To the contrary, there are claims that “polysorbate 80, a chemical that has exhibited delayed ovarian toxicity to rat ovaries at all injected doses tested over a tenfold range is an ingredient in AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine, along with other vaccines including for influenza and HPV.”  
Former Pfizer allergist and immunologist Michael Yeadon and German lung specialist Wolfgang Wodarg wrote a petition to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in which they wrote that “it could take a relatively long time before a noticeable number of cases of post vaccination infertility could be observed” since pregnant and breastfeeding women were not included in the beginning clinical trials.  But does any of this come into play in Cpozek’s fact check? She ignores vital context and other concerns in order to push Covid vaccinations.
Czopek also cites “experts” from Johns Hopkins Medicine, UChicago Medicine, and Columbia University Medicine who report that there is “no evidence getting the COVID-19 vaccine will affect a person’s fertility or increase the chances of harm to the placenta or fetus.”   
If one looks into these sources, one only finds other “experts” who claim there is no effect on fertility, despite no studies or data being given to the reader. Is this incontrovertible evidence? Is this really the scientific consensus after just a few months?
There must have been lengthy trials and robust scientific evidence that the vaccines did not pose a risk to fertility in order to vindicate Czopek’s false rating. But there is no evidence to be found in the fact check. Instead, Czopek uses only appeals to authority to make her factual claims rather than looking into the matter herself.
On the basis of her actual sources, the picture is less than compelling. According to the CDC, the basis for dismissing fertility concerns is that “[studies] in animals receiving a Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine before or during pregnancy found no safety concerns.” 
By January 8 2021, Public Health England had revised their advice and from a screenshot on March 1 said: “There is no advice to avoid pregnancy after COVID-19 vaccination.” By March, the same organization said “[animal] studies do not indicate direct or indirect harmful effects with respect to reproductive toxicity.”  
A quick search into the applicability of animal experiments to humans yields this concern: “Animal studies are of limited usefulness to human health because they are of poor quality and their results often conflict with human trials, argue researchers in a study online in the British Medical Journal…This discordance may be due to bias, random error, or the failure of animal models to adequately represent clinical disease.”  So, “experts” most likely made their opinions on the basis of studies on animals, not humans.
The greatest problem with the dogmatic tone Czopek takes is that even according to the CDC website, there is “limited data on the safety of COVID-19 during pregnancy, because it was not studied among pregnant people” and thus any claims regarding fertility or pregnancy must be taken with a grain of salt. 
Saying “there is no evidence” when there is only a small amount of data available does not equal “take the vaccine” in this situation.
We see this strategy in other fact checks like this one: fact checkers will receive Facebook posts claiming some such thing contrary to the agenda of the left, and rate the claim completely false despite there not being enough evidence to prove the claim in either the negative or the positive.
OUR RATING: 2 = Trash Journalism, aka the Daily Beast.
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