Pfizer and BioNTech's joint vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus doesn't cause sperm damage, according to a recent study shared on a medical preprint server.
This is great news for people worried about potential adverse effects from taking the vaccine. But it turns out a significant fraction people who have already contracted COVID-19 may develop neuropsychiatric symptoms like fatigue, sleep problems, and anxiety, according to another study from the preprint server.
If you want to conceive children, you should get the vaccine
In testing for sperm damage from the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine from Pfizer, the Israeli researchers collected sperm samples from 43 male volunteers — once a month before, and again one month after the men received their vaccinations. Not a single one of their sperm parameters — including concentration, volume, or motility — were substantially altered post-vaccination, said the researchers in the preprint study. While their findings are still subject to peer review, this is a wonderful find for everyone — especially since U.S. birth rates have fallen to their lowest point in more than a century.
"These preliminary results are reassuring to the young male population undergoing vaccination worldwide," wrote the researchers in a Reuters report. "Couples desiring to conceive should vaccinate, as vaccination does not affect sperm." This medical advice is especially apt when compared to the negative effects on sperm previous studies have observed in males following coronavirus infection. But sadly, it turns out a significant fraction of vaccine recipients suffered another, less palpable yet more visceral side-effect.
Researchers from the second study have found that neuropsychiatric symptoms are common among coronavirus survivors. gathered data from 51 different studies collectively involving nearly 19,000 patients who were all tracked for at most six months. On average, the follow-up happened 77 days after patients were diagnosed with COVID-19. In general, 27.4% reported problems sleeping, with 24.4% experiencing fatigue, and 20.2% getting poor scores on cognitive tests. Anxiety was reported in 19.1%, with another 15.7% reporting post-traumatic stress.
COVID-19 infection can cause neuropsychiatric symptoms
Needless to say, neuropsychiatric symptoms caused by COVID-19 infection are common. Nervous episodes and dizziness or vertigo were less common, but were reported in "a non-negligible proportion" of patients, according to the Tuesday research paper shared on the preprint server. Roughly 7% of the patients involved in the second meta-analysis needed intensive care — but some of the sub-studies under review were vague about precise intensive care figures. "There was little or no evidence of differential symptom prevalence based on hospitalization status, severity, or follow-up duration," read the study. The researchers also emphasized the need for caution — since some of the patients included in the study may have still been suffering an acute stage of their COVID-19 infections. If this is the case, subsequent studies will need to execute longer follow-up periods to know how long these symptoms continue — and decide whether mental health-related symptoms are caused by generic viral infections, or the coronavirus itself.
It's a great relief to know that sperm can survive the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine without suffering damage. This knowledge might encourage many who hesitate to schedule an appointment because of misinformation trending online. But sadly, those who struggled through severe COVID-19 infections to emerge healthy on the other side might have another, psychological challenge ahead of them. Our best wishes to the survivors.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that people who received the Pfizer vaccine developed neuropsychiatric symptoms. This is incorrect. The text has been updated to reflect the second study's finding that such symptoms may follow COVID-19 illness.