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Vaccine "shedding" can occur only when a vaccine contains a live weakened version of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
This is not possible for mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. MRNA vaccines instruct cells to make a protein that will trigger an immune response in the body.
Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, dubious claims about the vaccine still abound on social media. One warns against sleeping with vaccinated people.
"This is sad, I won’t ever sleep with or date a lady who is jabbed. Did you know you can get vaccinated sleeping with somebody who is already jabbed?" an Instagram post’s caption reads. "It’s called ‘shedding.’"
The post included a video and a screenshot of a tweet, which said, "SPIKE PROTEIN from the mRNA Covid-19 FLU JAB has almost entirely replaced Male SPERM." The tweet links to a video entitled, "Dr Arne Burkhardt Confirms Sperm Has Been Almost Entirely Replaced By Spike Proteins."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
This claim about "shedding" is an old, false narrative frequently used by anti-vaccine activists.
The COVID-19 vaccine does not "shed" or affect unvaccinated people, as PolitiFact reported in 2021. We reported then that it is "biologically impossible."
Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director for epidemiology and infection prevention at the University of California, Irvine, told PolitiFact in 2021, "There is absolutely no biological mechanism for any COVID-19 vaccine side effects or vaccine components to shed to others."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines vaccine shedding as the "release or discharge of any of the vaccine components in or outside of the body." It can occur only when a vaccine contains a live weakened version of the virus, the CDC said.
None of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines — or any authorized for use in the U.S. or globally for that matter — are live virus vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines. The Novavax vaccine is a protein subunit vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a viral vector vaccine.
Live-virus COVID-19 vaccines are still in development. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-inventor of a landmark rotavirus vaccine, said none are in use elsewhere in the world.
Examples of live virus vaccines include the oral polio vaccine and rotavirus vaccine. David Gorski, professor of surgery and oncology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, wrote in a 2021 blog post that there’s a difference between shedding and causing disease — strains of virus used in live attenuated virus vaccines have been weakened so they don’t cause disease.
PolitiFact has also previously debunked the claim that being around vaccinated people affects fertility. The CDC says COVID-19 vaccines are not associated with fertility problems in women or men. Reuters has also reported that there is currently no credible scientific evidence that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines damage men’s sperm.
An Instagram post claimed that "you can get vaccinated sleeping with somebody who is already jabbed" with an mRNA vaccine through "shedding."
"Shedding" — known as the release of vaccine components in or outside of the body — is possible only with vaccines that contain a live weakened version of the virus. This is impossible with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. MRNA vaccines work by instructing cells to produce a piece of spike protein, which triggers an immune response in the body. They do not contain a live virus.
We rate this claim False.
Instagram post, March 20, 2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines, accessed March 21, 2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work, accessed March 21, 2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding, accessed March 21, 2023
PolitiFact, Debunking the anti-vaccine hoax about ‘vaccine shedding,’ May 6, 2021
PolitiFact, Repeatedly debunked idea of "shedding" COVID-19 vaccines is still false, Nov. 8, 2021
PolitiFact, No, women’s cycles and fertility are not affected by being around vaccinated people, April 21, 2021
MedPage Today, The latest anti-vax myth: ‘Vaccine shedding,’ April 29, 2021
David Gorski, Shedding: An antivax trope resurrected for COVID-19 vaccines, April 23, 2021
Healthline, The Truth About Vaccine Shedding, accessed March 21, 2023
PLoS Pathogens, Can live-attenuated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine contribute to stopping the pandemic?, Sept. 21, 2022
Phone interview, Paul Offit, MD, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, March 21, 2023
AFP, Covid vaccinated do not 'shed' mRNA to unvaccinated, Dec. 14, 2022
Health Feedback, Unsubstantiated claims by Michael Palmer and Sucharit Bhakdi don’t demonstrate that COVID-19 vaccines harm organs, Sept. 3, 2022
Reuters, Fact Check-No evidence mRNA COVID-19 vaccines affect sperm, May 17, 2021
USA Today, Fact check: No, COVID-19 vaccine isn't transmitted to others via contact, May 20, 2021
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