Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 won't affect a couple's chances of getting pregnant, but contracting the coronavirus could impair male fertility.
Those are the main conclusions of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, refuting a common myth about the vaccine and sending a warning to men who avoid it.
Researchers at Boston University studied more than 2,000 couples and found no differences in their chances of conception if either partner was vaccinated compared to unvaccinated couples. But the couples' chances of conceiving decreased slightly if the male partner had contracted the virus 60 days or less before the other partner's menstrual cycle, an indication of diminished male fertility.
One possible reason for that, researchers theorized, is the likelihood coronavirus infection would cause a fever, which has been known to reduce sperm count.
Among the males in the study who tested positive more than 60 days before the cycle, conception rates were the same as males who had not been infected. But couples in which the male was infected within that 60-day window were 18% less likely to conceive in that cycle.
“The findings provide reassurance that vaccination for couples seeking pregnancy does not appear to impair fertility,” said Diana Bianchi, M.D., director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded the study. “They also provide information for physicians who counsel patients hoping to conceive.”
Misinformation about the impact of COVID vaccines on pregnancy and fertility has been so prevalent that some doctors have proactively dispelled the myth with their patients of reproductive age.
In September 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urgently exhorted those who were pregnant or planning to conceive to get vaccinated, after the pandemic's highest number of COVID deaths among pregnant people was recorded the month before.
"In addition to the risks of severe illness and death for pregnant and recently pregnant people,'' the CDC wrote, "there is an increased risk for adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, including preterm birth and admission of their neonate(s) to an intensive care unit.''
Also in the news:
►U.S. Representatives Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Raul Grijalva of Arizona said Thursday they have tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time. Massie, a Republican opposed to mask and vaccine mandates, said he's not vaccinated. Grijalva, a Democrat, said he's vaccinated and boosted. Both reported mild symptoms.
►Czech folk singer Hana Horká, 57, has died just days after announcing on Facebook that she deliberately contracted COVID to avoid vaccination and was recovering from the disease.
►All New Jersey health care workers will need to be fully vaccinated and receive booster shots or face termination under an order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.
►New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said National Guard members and state employees will volunteer as substitute teachers and child care workers to help fill staffing voids created by the pandemic.
►The U.N.-backed organization Medicines Patent Pool announced Thursday that it has signed agreements with more than two dozen generic drug makers to produce versions of Merck’s COVID-19 pill to supply 105 developing countries..
📈Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 69 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 859,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 339 million cases and over 5.57 million deaths. More than 209 million Americans – 63% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘What we're reading: Now that the U.S. government has launched its free coronavirus test delivery website, how useful will these COVID-19 tests be for travelers who need a negative test to fly to their destination? Read more.
London-bound flight returns to Miami when passenger refuses to wear mask
A passenger's refusal to wear a face mask onboard, which is required by federal law, forced an American Airlines flight bound for London to return to Miami this week.
The flight took off at approximately 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday and landed back at Miami International Airport approximately 90 minutes later, according to flight trackers. AA spokesperson Curtis Blessing confirmed to USA TODAY that the flight returned to Miami “due to a disruptive customer refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement.”
Blessing also confirmed that local law enforcement met the aircraft after it returned to the airport. A Miami-Dade Police Department spokesperson told USA TODAY a woman in her 40s was escorted off the plane for refusing to wear a mask. Police have not arrested the woman, and the department spokesperson said American Airlines will handle incident administratively.
— Marina Pitofsky
Austria to require all adults to be vaccinated – a first in Europe
Austria is about to become the first European country to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all adults.
The Austrian parliament voted Thursday to implement the mandate for residents 18 and older starting Feb. 1. Fines could rise up to 3,600 euros ($4,000) for repeat violators. Some exemptions for medical reasons and previous infections would be allowed.
“This is how we can manage to escape the cycle of opening and closing, of lockdowns,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said. “That is why this law is so urgently needed right now.”
About 72% of Austria's population of 8.9 million is fully vaccinated.
Indiana considers approving ivermectin for COVID-19 despite FDA warnings
An Indiana lawmaker wants to block the state's health care providers from discouraging use of the anti-parasite medicine ivermectin to treat COVID-19, a controversial treatment that has been rejected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The legislation authored by Republican Rep. Curt Nisly would allow an Indiana doctor or advanced practice registered nurse to write a standing order for ivermectin – and ban pharmacists from discouraging using of the drug to treat coronavirus.
The FDA says ivermectin should never be used to treat or prevent COVID-19, and that incorrect use has required some patients to seek medical treatment. "Currently available data do not show ivermectin is effective against COVID-19," the FDA says on its website.
Dr. Elizabeth Struble, president of the Indiana State Medical Association, said in an emailed statement that she found the proposed legislation concerning.
“A health care provider prescribing an unproven therapy can be dangerous for the health of Hoosiers,” Struble said. "What’s even more dangerous is legislating the creation of a very broad, standing-order mechanism so pharmacists can freely dispense an unproven therapy.”
– Shari Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star
Is there COVID in the air? This device can tell us
It's not available for everyone yet, but Yale University researchers have developed an easy-to-use, clip-on device that can detect low levels of the coronavirus in the air around people, according to research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters. Experts in Yale's School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Public Health designed the Fresh Air Clip, a 3D-printed air sampler measuring about 1 inch in diameter that collects samples of air on a film inside the badge-shaped device. Read more here.
Researchers are using the Fresh Air Clips in additional studies at health care facilities in Connecticut and hope to make them available to the public in the future.
– Mike Snider
Hundreds of docs press FDA to approve vaccine for kids under 5
About 250 physicians sent a letter Thursday to the FDA demanding children under 5 get “urgent access” to COVID-19 vaccines. The letter argues the science supports immediate vaccine access and “procedural red tape” is preventing that. Pfizer announced early tests showed the 3-microgram doses given to 2- to 5-year-olds didn’t produce as much immune protection as did shots given to other age groups. The company hopes an additional dose of vaccine will provide the desired effectiveness, but that means waiting several more weeks for results.
Based on previous actions by the FDA, the COVID vaccine may be available for children 2 to 4 around May, said Dr. Robert Frenck, director of the Vaccine Research Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Children 6 to 24 months may have to wait until late summer or fall, he said.
On Wednesday, presidential medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said he hopes the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for kids under 5 will be authorized "within the next month or so.''
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Two years later, concerns over pandemic grow
Americans' pandemic fears rose with the infection rate in January, prompting most Americans to avoid large crowds even as masking and vaccine rates remain mostly stagnant, a new survey indicates. A Gallup poll of 1,569 U.S. adults, conducted online Jan. 3-14, found a steep rise in the percentage of Americans who said the pandemic is "getting worse," as compared to fall 2021 data. Americans' optimism had increased when vaccines started rolling out, but now over half of respondents said they think the pandemic is getting worse.
"Worry has jumped ... and is now the highest it has been since last winter, before COVID-19 vaccines were readily available to the general public," a summary of poll results says.
– Claire Thornton, USA TODAY
Omicron spike may be near peak in California
California, where an omicron-driven spike in COVID-19 cases occurred later than in cities such as Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C., may reach peak case numbers and see case rates begin to fall this week, according to a forecast from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The model predicted a peak in cases from the state for Jan. 19, with an estimation of almost 130,000 cases a day.
Earlier this week, USA TODAY talked to Marlene Wolfe, an assistant professor of environmental health at Emory University in Atlanta and part of the Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network, a team of scientists that evaluates sewage treatment plants to gain information about COVID-19 rates in California communities. Wolfe said then that testing in about a dozen California cities, the largest of which are Sacramento and San Jose, shows a few cities with possible downward trends but nothing concrete.
Other cities are on the rise, and it will take more time or data to determine where peaks have occurred, Wolfe said.
Testing firm fraudulently reported negative test results, complaint says
The Minnesota Attorney General's Office filed a consumer-protection lawsuit Wednesday against a nationwide chain of coronavirus testing sites for "deceptive and fraudulent practices." The suit alleges the Illinois-based Center for COVID Control and its primary lab, Doctors Clinical Lab, collected samples from Minnesotans for coronavirus testing but either failed to deliver results or delivered false or inaccurate results, according to the complaint reviewed by USA TODAY.
The company and its lab "provide inaccurate and deceptive test result information to Minnesota consumers and have fraudulently reported negative test results to consumers that never completed COVID-19 tests," according to the complaint. Some test results listed "the wrong test type and false dates and times for when samples were collected from consumers," the complaint said.
The company, which is under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General's Office and the Oregon Department of Justice, is operated by Illinois residents Akbar Syed and Aleya Siyaj, the complaint says. In recent months, the couple has purchased a number of luxury vehicles and a $1.36 million mansion.
– Grace Hauck, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID vaccine won't prevent pregnancy but infection might: Updates