A team of researchers at the Manipal-based Kasturba Medical College (a constituent of Manipal Academy of Higher Education) which looked into changes in sperm quality in men after receiving Covishield vaccine have found that their fertility was unaffected.

The research was published on September 5 in the official journal of the UK-based Society for Reproduction and Fertility.

Over 50 volunteers provided semen samples prior to receiving their first dose of vaccine, after observing two to seven days of abstinence. After about two months of vaccination, their sperm quality was assessed. Those who had tested Covid positive or had symptoms were excluded.

Of the 53 who received two vaccine doses, about half of them had semen quality below the WHO recommended value prior to vaccination not altering significantly post-vaccination. No changes in the semen characteristics were observed between the baseline and follow-up samples.

Dispells myths associated

Speaking about the study, Lt Gen MD Venkatesh, Vice-Chancellor of Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), said this is a significant step forward towards reassuring the safety of Covid vaccine which is commonly used in India. It will help in dispelling any myths associated and remove any apprehensions men may have regarding the vaccine safety, he said.

Sharath Rao, Dean of Kasturba Medical College, said, it is obviously a wise option to get vaccinated than suffer from the complications of a Covid infection. A study like this can help reassuring people and remove any doubts they may have on whether to get vaccinated, he said.

Satish Adiga -- who lead the research team that included Huidrom Yaiphaba Meitei, Shubhashree Uppangala, Vani Lakshmi and Guruprasad Kalthur – said: “Our initial observation has demonstrated that Covishield is not detrimental to sperm fertility potential. Importantly, no true semen abnormalities such as azoospermia (complete lack of sperm), absolute asthenozoospermia (loss of motility), and teratozoospermia (altered sperm structure) were found even in a single study subject who received the vaccine.”

Quoting Stefan Schlatt, member of WHO team which formulated the guidelines for semen analysis and Director of the Centre of Reproductive Medicine and Andrology in Germany, a statement said myths and unproven reports on potentially damaging effects of Covid vaccinations on male fertility have spread globally and generated fears and hesitance to accept vaccinations.

It is of utmost importance that valid clinical studies are available to generate evidence-based data on vaccines’ side effects. This study is the first to report clinical outcomes on sperm parameters in men before and after receiving Covishield vaccine. The results highlight no negative effect and no reason for concern. “The study presents a milestone to disprove that vaccinations have negative impact on male fertility,” Schlatt said.

Quoting Geetanjali Sachdeva, Director of National Institute for Research in Reproductive and Child Helath (NIRRCH) under Indian Council for Medical Research, it said this study provides prima facie evidence that vaccines against Covid do not adversely affect the semen quality. The study is important, especially in the Indian context and also in terms of generating much-needed evidence to demonstrate that non-mRNA-based vaccines are also safe as these don’t adversely affect the men’s reproductive potential. This evidence should dispel any fears among those who are still hesitant to get vaccinated, she said.

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