Since the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, thousands of women in the UK have been saying that their periods have been disrupted, say experts.
More than 30,000 women said their menstrual cycle being somewhat altered after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, reported Sky News.
The UK’s Yellow Card scheme, where people can voluntarily report their side effects to any medication – including vaccinations – has shown that many women have seen a disruption in their periods.
Dr. Victoria Male, a reproductive immunologist from Imperial College London, wrote in the British Medical Journal that while these changes are safe and short-lived, has stated that an investigation as to why this happens is crucial.
Dr. Male states that periods can be heavier or delayed because of an immune response, and poses no danger to one’s body.
“Robust research into this possible adverse reaction remains critical to the overall success of the vaccination program. One important lesson is that the effects of medical interventions on menstruation should not be an afterthought in future research,” wrote Dr. Male.
Writing in The Telegraph, Caroline Criado-Perez, author of Invisible Women, said: “As with most clinical studies, the Covid-19 vaccine trials did not investigate menstrual cycle effects – in fact, in many trials women are wholesale excluded because of potential menstrual cycle effects.”
There is no reason to be significantly concerned about menstrual changes and long-term impacts, writes Dr. Male, as the vast majority of those reporting the post-vaccine alterations state that normality ensues quickly.
In early 2019, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, declared his state “pro-vaccination” and opposed efforts to broaden exemptions for mandatory vaccines. In August, Ducey banned his state’s authorities from requiring government employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Four years ago, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb mandated meningitis vaccines for public college and university students. Now, he says choosing whether or not to be vaccinated is a “fundamental” right.
Ducey and Holcomb are among a host of Republican governors fighting COVID-19 vaccination mandates, even as their states simultaneously enforce other vaccine mandates. Five health law experts told Insider these positions are fundamentally contradictory and illustrate the politicization of vaccines and public health in the age of the coronavirus.
“There is a certain hypocrisy in mandating childhood vaccines for all school children while objecting to employer mandates,” Lawrence Gostin, a public health law scholar at Georgetown University, told Insider. “Childhood vaccines are required even if the parent objects and several states don’t grant any religious exemptions.”
The US has a long history of mandating vaccinations. The 12 Republican-led states that have banned COVID-19 vaccine mandates all require that children receive several vaccines in order to attend daycare and public schools. Some of these states have vaccination mandates for adults and those in healthcare settings. In certain cases, the same governors who’ve pushed relatively new vaccine mandates, including for meningitis, now oppose COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
Republican governors, in unison with most of their party, argue that getting the COVID-19 vaccine – and even a test – should be a “personal choice.” They raced to condemn Biden’s announcement last week that he’ll require nearly all federal employees, contractors, and federally-funded healthcare providers to be vaccinated and large employers to implement weekly testing for the unvaccinated.
They say there’s no legal or substantive difference between mandating COVID-19 vaccines and mandating other kinds of vaccines, particularly following the Federal Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“If business and educational facilities are not prevented from requiring other vaccines, they should not be prevented from requiring COVID-19 vaccines to make their customers and staff safer and protect themselves against closures and economic loss,” Dorit Reiss, an expert in vaccine law and policy at UC Hastings College of the Law, told Insider.
Doctors, public health experts, scientists, and legal experts have praised vaccine and testing mandates as effective and constitutional tools to promote public health. And federal mandates are warranted because the nation is facing a medical emergency, the unvaccinated are posing a threat to others’ health and safety, and the vaccines are safe and effective.
Peter Meyers, a professor emeritus and former director of the George Washington University law school’s vaccine injury litigation clinic, told Insider that Republican lawmakers are exhibiting a “tremendous amount of hypocrisy and inconsistency in applying this principle of self-determination in America.”
Many view Republican opposition to COVID-19 vaccination and mitigation policies as nakedly political.
“Vaccination and, generally, public health measures have always been political, but we’re really seeing them become partisan today,” Valerie Gutmann Koch, an expert in health law and policy at the University of Houston Law Center, told Insider.
A ‘power grab’?
The GOP fight against COVID-19 mitigation measures has escalated in recent months, even as the delta variant has caused a dramatic rise in infections and deaths.
GOP governors called the vaccine and testing mandates “tyrannical,” “dictatorial,” and “un-American.” All but two Republican state attorneys general signed a letter on Thursday threatening to sue the Biden administration if it doesn’t retract its vaccine mandate. Republicans argue the vaccine mandates and passports constitute federal overreach, violate individuals’ personal freedoms, and are unconstitutional. Some baselessly argued Biden’s mandates aren’t guided by science are instead attempts to “control” Americans’ lives.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Biden’s mandates “a power grab” and an “assault on private businesses.” Last month, he signed an executive order banning local governments from implementing vaccine mandates and businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.
In Florida, the Republican-controlled state legislature recently passed a law barring local governments and private businesses from requiring their employees or patrons be vaccinated. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a conservative Republican, announced this week that his administration would charge $5,000-per-infraction fines against any cities and counties requiring government employees to be vaccinated as a term of employment. During a press conference in Gainesville, he defended the city’s public employees who refuse to get vaccinated and allowed at least one of them to spread anti-vaccine misinformation from his podium.
Many Republicans argue Biden’s policies are federal overreach, but experts say the pandemic has presented a crisis that requires federal action to fill in the gaps.
“In ordinary times, I think that their argument would have some validity … traditionally, it has not been the federal government that has mandated vaccination, it’s been a state and local decision,” Meyers said. “But these are not ordinary times. The COVID-19 epidemic is extraordinary.”
At the same time, many of these governors have overridden local authorities and private businesses, imposing contradictory state-wide public health policies.
“The same states that are pushing back against federal mandates are the ones that have essentially usurped local control over public health emergencies,” Koch said.
‘You do not have a right to harm others’
Legal experts say Republican legal efforts to fight COVID-19 mandates will likely fail. There’s broad agreement in the legal community that Biden’s vaccine and testing mandates are constitutional and in line with Supreme Court precedent.
The ACLU and other legal experts argue the mandates are a justifiable intrusion on individual autonomy and bodily integrity because COVID-19 poses such a high risk, the vaccines are safe and effective, and there is no alternative mitigation measure that is as effective.
Howard Markel, a medical historian and professor at the University of Michigan, argued that Republican lawmakers who oppose the mandates are “twisting, perverting, and warping” civil liberties for partisan gain.
“You do not have the right, in your own personal liberties, to harm others … I don’t have a right to infect people with COVID,” he told Insider. “There’s common sense limitations to all of our rights and privileges in America.”
Until recently, Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines were seen as comparable shots, offering similar protection against disease and death.
But a new report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that Moderna’s vaccine does a better job of preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations than other vaccines authorized in the US. Both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines, as well as one from Johnson & Johnson, offer substantially better protection than remaining unvaccinated, the report shows.
Moderna’s two-dose shot lowered the risk of hospitalization by 93% from March to August, the report found. Meanwhile, Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine lowered the hospitalization risk by 88% over the same time period.
The report pooled data from 21 hospital across 18 US states. It looked at about 1,300 fully vaccinated people and compared them to about 2,300 people who hadn’t received shots. Of the vaccinated people, 476 got Moderna shots, 738 got Pfizer’s, and 113 received J&J.
The Delta variant became dominant in the US in July, so the data may include people who got infected with Delta, Alpha, or other common strains over the last six months. (The report didn’t screen for individual variants.)
The protection from Pfizer’s shot declines over time
The difference in vaccine effectiveness appears to be driven by the fact that Pfizer’s protection declined over time, whereas Moderna’s did not, the CDC authors wrote. Pfizer’s shot lowered the risk of hospitalization by 91% in the first four months after it was administered. Protection went down to 77% after four months.
Both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccine soffer better protection than J&J’s single-dose shot, though. That vaccine lowered the risk of hospitalization by 71% over the time period of March to August, the report found. All three vaccines still offer strong protection against severe disease and death.
The findings may “guide individual choices and policy recommendations regarding vaccine boosters,” the CDC authors wrote. Indeed, some public-health experts have suggested that boosters may not be necessary for those who received Moderna’s shot.
“The early evidence looks like persistence is better with Moderna, and that’s why the [Biden] administration and the FDA have been suggesting that it’s really more specific to people who got Pfizer who may need boosting,” Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, recently told Insider.
A Food and Drug Administration external advisory panel is meeting today to decide whether to recommend a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine.
Moderna’s vaccine also seems to hold up better against Delta infections
The CDC report gives a few reasons for why Moderna’s vaccine seems to offer more lasting protection against hospitalization. For one, the vaccine contains a higher dose of mRNA, which may explain why Moderna’s shot produced higher antibody levels than Pfizer’s vaccine two to six weeks after it was administered.
Moderna’s doses are also given four weeks apart, which may allow more time for antibodies to build. Pfizer’s doses are given three weeks apart.
A recent UK study, which is still awaiting peer review, found that Pfizer’s vaccine may have performed better with a longer dosing interval: The shot seemed to produce more antibodies when doses were administered six to 14 weeks apart as opposed to three to four weeks apart.
Other studies have also suggested that Moderna’s vaccine may do a better job of preventing infections in the face of the Delta variant.
An August study from the Mayo Clinic that hasn’t been peer reviewed found that Moderna’s vaccine lowered the risk of a coronavirus infection by 86% in Minnesota from January to July. In July, when the Delta variant accounted for more than 70% of Minnesota’s COVID-19 cases, that protection went down to 76% – a small decrease compared to Pfizer’s. Pfizer’s shot lowered the risk of a coronavirus infection by 76% from January to July. In July, that protection went down to 42%.
Twitter’s response to Nicki Minaj’s bizarre post claiming that a COVID-19 vaccine caused her cousin’s friend’s testicles to swell shows how the platform uses patchwork policies in curbing misinformation.
The rap superstar said in several tweets this week that she has not gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 yet, in part because she wants to do more research after hearing a story from her cousin.
“My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent,” Minaj wrote to her 22.7 million Twitter followers. “His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding.”
No clinical studies of any COVID-19 vaccines being administered have linked the shot to impotence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not found any vaccine, including the one for COVID-19, to lead to fertility problems, and encourages pregnant people or those who may become pregnant to get a shot.
Minaj’s tweet appears to have led to her fanbase to target public health officials: A small group of Minaj’s followers, who call themselves “Barbz,” protested outside the CDC’s Atlanta office. Chief Medical Advisor to the president Anthony Fauci even got involved, denying Minaj’s claim that the vaccine could lead to impotence.
Dr. Joe Smyser, PhD, MSPH, Chief Executive Officer of The Public Good Projects, told Insider when celebrities like Minaj post misinformation, the result can be “incredibly damaging” to public health. Smyser said followers of a celebrity trust them, and view them as an authentic source for information.
“So when health authorities are put in the position of having to refute misinformation from a celebrity, and they definitely have to do this, it’s a lose-lose for everybody,” Smyser said.
“What is sad about this is that it wasted our time yesterday trying to track it down, because we take all of these claims seriously,” Deyalsingh said. “As we stand now there is absolutely no reported such side effect or adverse effect of testicular swelling in Trinidad … and none that we know of anywhere else in the world.”
The White House has recently pointed to online misinformation as a roadblock to getting more Americans vaccinated.
Though she expressed her hesitation about getting a vaccine herself, Minaj tweeted previously she recommends people get one for work and that she will likely get a jab herself once she goes on tour.
In the past, Twitter has put warning labels on posts containing misinformation from prominent accounts.
The company labeled multiple posts from former President Donald Trump before permanently suspending his account. Twitter allows accounts those in government or running for office, to violate its Civic Integrity Policy due to public interest.
For months, dangerous rumors on social media have claimed that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus could hamper male and female fertility. Celebrities too have perpetuated these false concepts.
But doctors and scientists say there’s no evidence or even theory suggesting the shot affects fertility. On the contrary, COVID-19 may.
“We want to reassure women that there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility. Claims of any effect of COVID-19 vaccination on fertility are speculative and not supported by any data,” Dr. Edward Morris, President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in a January statement.
“There is no biologically plausible mechanism by which current vaccines would cause any impact on women’s fertility.”
mRNA vaccines cannot enter cells, and tracking systems haven’t raised red flags
It’s thought the rumors began following a now-blocked Facebook post which incorrectly suggested that the vaccine teaches the body to attack a protein involved in placental development.
In reality, the protein the vaccine spurs the body to make and attack bears little resemblance to the one in the placenta.
Plus, based on the way the mRNA vaccines are made, they are “not going to be able to enter the cell of the baby and cause any problem, mechanistically speaking,” Dr. Zaher Merhi, an OB-GYN, reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, and the founder of Rejuvenating Fertility Center, previously told Insider.
And, tens of thousands of people have gotten or remained pregnant after vaccination, according to three safety monitoring systems. That data shows that the vaccine isn’t linked to any increase in adverse pregnancy outcomes like miscarriage, preterm birth, or death.
“You’re much more likely to have fertility issues post-COVID than after the vaccine,” Nicola Stonehouse, a virologist at the University of Leeds, told the BBC. One May study even suggested that COVID-19 can damage penile blood vessels, potentially leading to erectile dysfunction and impotence.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stood by as a Gainesville city employee falsely claimed the COVID-19 vaccine “changes your RNA” during a press conference to promote the governor’s campaign against vaccine mandates and passports.
DeSantis invited several employees of the city of Gainesville, which is requiring its public employees to get vaccinated or face termination, to speak out against the vaccine mandates on Monday. The governor highlighted unvaccinated first responders facing potential termination as a result of the mandates, which he argued are unconstitutional. But DeSantis made no mention of the pervasive misinformation fueling much of the opposition to the life-saving shots on Monday.
“The vaccine changes your RNA, so, for me, that’s a problem,” the Gainesville man, Darris Friend, said from the podium. “They’re taking away our freedom and liberty, little by little. They’re using the vaccine for cover. Last year, they took away our religious rights, they’re not defending our freedom of speech, and this is just one way to take us to the next step.”
The crowd cheered as Friend left the podium and the governor said nothing to contradict his false claim, part of a conspiracy theory popular online that the vaccines alter a person’s DNA. They do not. Scientists and public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have made clear that the vaccines do not alter human DNA in any way.
An mRNA-developed vaccine, like those from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, uses messenger ribonucleic acid to attach a dummy protein to a cell’s outer surface in the muscle to teach the body’s immune system how to defeat it; at no time does this enter the cell and affect the DNA.
DeSantis’ communications director, Taryn Fenske, told Insider the governor “has never said the vaccine changes your RNA, nor is that his opinion.”
DeSantis held the press conference, featuring a slew of local elected officials and government employees, to announce that his administration would fine Florida cities and counties that require government employees to be vaccinated as a term of employment $5,000 for each infraction. Florida’s GOP-controlled state legislature recently passed a law banning governments and private businesses from requiring that their employees be vaccinated or that customers be vaccinated in order to receive services.
The governor threatened “millions and millions of dollars potentially in fines” against local governments. The state is also supporting a lawsuit filed by more than 200 Gainesville public employees against the city’s mandate. Friend, the Gainesville employee, is a plaintiff in that suit.
Biden announced last week that he will require employers with more than 100 employees to mandate either vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing for all employees. He also announced that all federal government employees and contractors will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
DeSantis called the national and local rules “ridiculous, unforeseen expansions of power” and argued that “thousands of thousands” of Floridians would be “coerced out of a job through government power.”
“You just throw ’em out like they’re chopped liver – that is just fundamentally wrong,” DeSantis said of people who might lose their jobs over their refusal to be vaccinated. “We’re not going to let that happen. We’re going to protect these jobs, we’re going to protect these peoples’ families, we’re going to protect their livelihoods.”
The governor, who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, repeatedly claimed on Monday that people are turning down the vaccines because they’ve already contracted the coronavirus and have natural immunity or because their doctors advised them against taking it. He repeated his belief that the vaccines should be widely available, but that taking them should be a personal choice, and didn’t attest to the safety or efficacy of the vaccines.
In the two weeks since Delta announced the extra fee, nearly 20% of its 20,000 unvaccinated workers have chosen to get the COVID-19 shot, according to Henry Ting, Delta’s chief health officer. Ting called the figure “a huge number in terms of shifting that group that’s most reluctant.” He made the remarks in a recent media briefing held by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Delta has not seen any employee turnover or resignations as a result of the surcharge news, Ting added.
When the extra fee was announced, roughly 74% of Delta’s 80,000 employees were vaccinated against COVID-19. In the two weeks following, Delta’s employee vaccination rate climbed to 78%, Ting said.
In announcing the surcharge last month, Delta also said the average hospital stay for COVID-19 costs the airline $50,000 per person. The airline added that all Delta workers who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent weeks weren’t fully vaccinated.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Sunday said that the COVID-19 vaccination mandate announced by President Joe Biden last week would heighten opposition to the vaccine among Americans who have yet to be inoculated.
The rule from the federal government mandates that employers with over 100 workers must require vaccination or conduct weekly testing, which will affect roughly 80 million Americans. The broader mandate will also affect approximately 17 million health care workers who are employed by hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, along with federal employees and contractors.
During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Arkansas Republican, who has been vocal in advocating for residents to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, threw cold water on the comprehensive federal mandate.
“I support businesses being able to require vaccination, but it’s their own independent choice for their workplace,” Hutchinson said. “But to have the federal mandate will be counterproductive. It’s going to increase resistance. We’re going to grow our vaccinations whether you have this or not.”
He added: “The president’s actions in a mandate hardens the resistance … We’ve historically had vaccination requirements in schools. But those have always come at the state level, never at the national level. And so, this is an unprecedented assumption of federal mandate authority that really disrupts and divides the country.”
The cooperation between states and the federal government in working to increase vaccination rates is now in jeopardy, according to Hutchinson.
“It divides our partnership between the federal government and the states,” he said of the mandate. “And it increases the division in terms of vaccination when we should all be together trying to increase the vaccination uptake.”
Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina, a staunch conservative, quickly took to Twitter to decry the action after last week’s announcement.
“Rest assured, we will fight them to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian,” he wrote.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas slammed the administration’s decision as “insanity.”
“Are you people trying to start a full on revolt?,” the congressman tweeted after Biden’s speech. “Honestly what the hell is wrong with Democrats? Leave people the hell alone. This is insanity.”
And Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a former congresswoman and potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate who has previously sued the administration over the fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, said “see you in court” to Biden.
Biden on Friday brushed aside Republican opposition and was confident that the mandate would overcome political challenges.
“Have at it,” he said of the GOP pushback while speaking at a middle school in Washington, DC. “I am so disappointed, particularly that some of the Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities.”
During a Sunday appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy defended the president’s move and emphasized that cooperation among all government partners remains the goal.
“I respect that people will have a variety of opinions on some of these measures,” he said. “The governors have been extraordinary partners … Republican, Democratic governors. From time to time, there will be disagreements on policies.”
But, Murthy added, that shouldn’t prevent continued conversations and collaboration.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 53.8% of the US population, totaling nearly 179 million people, have been fully vaccinated as of September 12. Since the pandemic began in the US, nearly 41 million people have been infected with the virus and more than 659,000 people have died, based on the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The Biden Administration will mandate that all companies operating in the United States with 100 or more employees to require vaccines or weekly testing.
This is a firm shift in policy from months ago when government guidelines allowed companies to require their workers to get vaccinated at their discretion. In April, President Biden incentivized small businesses with tax credits if they gave employees paid time off to get vaccinated.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is in charge of implementing this policy and is expected to release further guidance in the coming days, including when the mandate will take effect.
Here’s what we know so far.
We will be updating this post as new information becomes available.
OSHA will require all businesses with 100 or more employees to take one of two actions.
Require all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19
Employers must also provide all employees with time off to receive the vaccination and recover from any side effects.
While vaccine mandates may make some employees more comfortable at their workplaces, AP reported some business owners are worried they will lose workers at a time companies have had hiring difficulties.
Or, require all employees to get tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis
If companies do not choose to require vaccinations, they must have all employees get tested weekly for COVID-19. It is unclear how testing will be recorded and tracked by OSHA to ensure companies are following this protocol.
Exceptions are unclear until further guidance is released
Although Small businesses with less than 100 employees are not required to follow this mandate, experts advise businesses of all sizes to write their own policies to ensure clear communication and set workplace expectations around vaccinations.
Anthony Martin, owner and CEO of life insurance company Choice Mutual, previously told Insider his policy making vaccines optional for his staff of 15 gave workers clarity on the issue. “Everybody was really appreciative that they didn’t have to wonder whether or not this was going to be a problem,” he said.
A doctor in Michigan issued a stern warning for a woman lying on a hospital bed who refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine: “Death is imminent.”
Dr. Nicole Linder, chief hospitalist at OSF St. Francis Hospital Medical Group in Escanaba, Michigan, urged the public to get vaccinated against the coronavirus on Thursday. To make her point clearly, she cited a “very special patient” of hers named Kathy who had “refused the vaccine adamantly” before contracting the coronavirus.
Kathy has been in the hospital for at least three weeks battling COVID-19, Linder said, according to local news outlet MLive.com.
After being admitted to the hospital, Kathy called up several friends and family members to convince them to get vaccinated. At least six people got vaccinated after speaking with Kathy, Linder said, according to MLive.com.
Kathy has since been released on hospice care to spend time with her family as her symptoms continue to worsen. Ahead of her release, Kathy and Linder hugged goodbye.
“It was too late for her,” said Linder, who got permission from Kathy to share her story. “Despite everything that could possibly be done for her, she’s going to lose her battle and lose her life. And she’s vivacious and gregarious and just a wonderful person and this did not have to happen. Her family didn’t have to lose her.”
For months, health experts have been urging the public to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Friday says that unvaccinated people are up to 11 times likelier to die of COVID-19 than people who’ve gotten a jab.
Nationwide, about 54% of the US population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“I’m fatigued, and I am heartsick and I’m tired of watching people suffer needlessly and die of a disease that could have been prevented by a simple and safe and effective vaccine,” Linder said. “I don’t want to watch my patients’ families suffer with the grief of this and also the guilt if they played some role in their family member’s decision not to be vaccinated.”