FACT CHECKER

HPV vaccine does not cause infertility

No relationship has been established between the HPV vaccine and infertility in men or women.

In Summary

• In men, it has in fact been found that the HPV vaccine could improve infertility for men who have HPV semen infection, which causes infertility.

• Because HPV is such a common virus and most people will get it at some point in their lives, researchers studied the effects of the HPV vaccine on men.

HPV vaccine does not cause infertility.
HPV vaccine does not cause infertility.
Image: SOILA KENYA

Do men fire blanks after taking the HPV vaccine and can women become infertile?

No relationship has been established between the HPV vaccine and infertility in men or women. 

The World Health Organization (WHO)’ Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) has reviewed the safety of the HPV vaccine seven times. Each time it has been concluded that there is no scientific evidence that the HPV vaccine causes infertility in men or women.

In their latest report from 2020, GAVCS was specifically looking at the possible link between vaccination against HPV with primary ovarian insufficiency (POI). POI occurs when the ovaries stop functioning as they should before age 40. When this happens, a woman’s ovaries do not release eggs regularly. This condition can lead to infertility. GACVS reviewed 9 articles which included case reports, passive surveillance and epidemiological studies from different countries. They came to the conclusion that “the evidence does not suggest a causal relationship between HPV vaccination and infertility.”

In men, it has in fact been found that the HPV vaccine could improve infertility for men who have HPV semen infection, which causes infertility. Because HPV is such a common virus and most people will get it at some point in their lives, researchers studied the effects of the HPV vaccine on men who were detected with  HPV in their semen. The study concluded that in the men who had HPV in their semen, they were less likely to cause pregnancy in their female partners. However, they found that the HPV vaccine had a healing effect on this HPV-infected semen where more natural pregnancies and live births in men who took the vaccine. 

They also note that “despite the extensive safety data available for this vaccine, attention has continued to focus on spurious case reports and unsubstantiated allegations.” One unconfirmed incidence cannot confirm a correlation between the vaccine and any side effect if it is not supported by scientific research.

For Cervavix, the most commonly used HPV vaccine in Kenya, the most common side effects are pain, redness, and swelling at the site of injection. However, one could also face dizziness or fainting, nausea and headaches. Even in cases of more severe reactions to the vaccine, there is no consensus on whether the vaccine was the cause of the reaction or other factors in the person’s life.

Seeing as the vaccine has the potential to save millions of lives, science recommends the continued use of the vaccination to eliminate cervical cancers in women.

The side effects keep being evaluated consistently to continue ensuring the vaccine does not cause adverse reactions.

This article was produced by the Africa Women’s Journalism Project (AWJP) in partnership with Article 19, Meedan and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)