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What is vaccine shedding? Can it cause side effects?

Experts have moved quickly to rebuff claims covid-19 vaccines can cause reproductive issues in women who come into contact with recipients.

Fransella Kriestel receives her second Moderna vaccine at a vaccination site in San Antonio, Texas.

As the US struggles to turn a tide of vaccine hesitancy in favor of getting covid-19 doses into as many arms as possible to bring an end to the pandemic within its own borders and to do its bit toward reopening international travel and the global economy, epidemiologists and health experts are facing a new threat to vaccine confidence: so-called “vaccine shedding.”

Vaccine shedding is a term used to describe the release of a virus from a live-virus vaccine: essentially the possibility of a person who has received a vaccine passing on potential secondary effects to other people. However, as the CDC points out, none of the vaccines currently in use or in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes covid-19, making vaccine shedding an impossibility.

Vaccine shedding conspiracies "dangerous"

“This is a conspiracy that has been created to weaken trust in a series of vaccines that have been demonstrated in clinical trials to be safe and effective,” Dr Christopher Zahn, Vice President for Practice Activities at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the leading US organization for medical professionals in women’s healthcare, said in a statement. In response to a fact-checking request from Reuters, Dr Zahn added that “such conspiracies and false narratives are dangerous and have nothing to do with science.”

The CDC also released a similar statement in response to a Reuters request: "Covid-19 vaccines do not use the live virus that causes covid-19 and cannot cause covid-19. Therefore, people who receive a covid-19 vaccine cannot shed the virus or the vaccine.”

Miami school tells techers not to get covid-19 vaccine

The possibility of vaccine shedding associated with the covid-19 vaccination program in the US made headlines in late April when a Miami school said it would not employ teachers who had been vaccinated and recommended existing members of staff do not receive a vaccine either.

The Centner Academy in Miami sent a letter to parents whose children are enrolled at the private educational facility starting it had recommended staff do not get a vaccine until “further research is available on whether this experimental drug is impacting unvaccinated individuals.”

In recent weeks there have been a raft of unsubstantiated claims posted on online forums suggesting that vaccine shedding from covid-19 shots can affect menstrual cycles, cause miscarriages or lead to reproductive problems. These claims have been rubbished by medical experts, who point out that the covid-19 vaccines currently in use in the United States do not contain any elements that are capable of leaving the human body in any way.

Covid-19 vaccines "stay where they are injected"

They’re injected into your arm, and that’s where they stay,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, was quoted as saying by the New York Times. “mRNA is taken up by your muscle cells near the site of injection, the cells use it to make that protein, the immune system learns about the spike protein and gets rid of those cells. It’s not something that circulates.”