Fact check: No, COVID-19 vaccine isn't transmitted to others via contact
The claim: Pfizer trial documents say vaccinated people can transmit vaccine to others through skin contact, with 'devastating' results
Fears about people inoculated against COVID-19 exposing those who haven’t gotten a dose of the vaccine, with potentially dangerous consequences, continue to spread online even after they’ve been debunked.
In one of the latest versions of a recirculating claim about potential reproductive problems for women who are vaccinated or exposed to someone who is vaccinated, a May 19 Instagram post points to a document about Pfizer’s clinical trial as evidence of the risks to pregnant women.
“Stay away from the vaxxed,” the post says in all capital letters. “It is official, from Pfizer’s own documents.”
The post presents information in the Pfizer document about the exposure of pregnant women to those who have gotten the vaccine, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's guidance says pregnant women are excluded from most clinical trials.
It goes on to claim that an unvaccinated woman who “gets exposed to a woman who was vaccinated” can have a miscarriage, spontaneously abort, poison a baby while breast feeding or have children with “cognitive difficulties.”
It also says if a man touches or breathes the same air as a vaccinated woman before having sex, then his partner “can have an adverse event and she should avoid having children.”
USA TODAY previously has fact-checked false claims about the COVID-19 vaccine causing miscarriage and infertility, along with those that suggested coming into contact with a vaccinated person could lead to miscarriage.
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The account that posted the claim did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Exposure during pregnancy
The claim zeroes in on a portion of the document outlining Pfizer’s clinical trial for the COVID-19 vaccine where it describes the collection of information about “adverse events.”
It describes the circumstances under which a pregnant woman is considered to have been exposed to the vaccine and the following steps to take.
But that is common in clinical trials. The FDA’s industry guidance notes pregnant women “are actively excluded from trials, and if pregnancy does occur during the trial, the usual procedure is to discontinue treatment and drop the patient from the study, although her pregnancy is typically followed to term.”
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described early data about COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy as “preliminary, but reassuring.”
“These data did not identify any safety concerns for pregnant people who were vaccinated or their babies,” the agency wrote of its safety monitoring systems used to gather information about COVID-19 vaccinations during pregnancy.
The Pfizer vaccine was not tested on anyone who was pregnant.
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“As outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines can be administered to pregnant or lactating people,” Pfizer spokesperson Keanna Ghazvini told USA TODAY this month. “Based on current knowledge, experts believe that COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to the pregnant person or fetus.”
No ‘shedding’ vaccine
While someone infected with COVID-19 can release virus particles, healthy vaccinated people don’t “shed” vaccine because it does not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA, which the CDC said does not cause genetic changes because it does not enter the nucleus of a cell where DNA is kept
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"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," Carolyn Coyne, a microbiologist and professor of molecular genetics and biology at Duke University, told USA TODAY in April.
Our rating: False
The claim that Pfizer trial documents say vaccinated people can transmit vaccine to others through skin contact, with "devastating" results, is FALSE, based on our research. Information in Pfizer’s document about exposure to the vaccine during pregnancy is common in clinical trials. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain live virus that can be passed on to someone else.
Our fact-check sources:
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration, accessed May 20, Guidance for Industry
- USA TODAY, April 12, Fact check: No evidence of miscarriage surge since vaccine rollout
- USA TODAY, April 27, Fact check: No, interacting with a vaccinated person won't cause miscarriage or menstrual changes
- USA TODAY, Dec. 14, 2020, Fact check: A false post on social media claims COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in women
- USA TODAY, May 7, Fact check: COVID-19 vaccinated people don’t ‘shed’ viral particles from the vaccine
- Pfizer, accessed May 20, A PHASE 1/2/3, PLACEBO-CONTROLLED, RANDOMIZED, OBSERVER-BLIND, DOSE FINDING STUDY TO EVALUATE THE SAFETY, TOLERABILITY, IMMUNOGENICITY, AND EFFICACY OF SARS-COV-2 RNA VACCINE CANDIDATES AGAINST COVID-19 IN HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 14, COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding
- Duke University, accessed May 20, Carolyn Coyne, professor of molecular genetics and biology
Contributing: Miriam Fauzia, Daniel Funke
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