By Mary Margaret Olohan
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is doing “exploratory work” to decide whether it will study if COVID-19 vaccines are causing “menstrual irregularities,” the CDC told the Daily Caller News Foundation Wednesday.
In late July, CDC spokeswoman Martha Sharan said that several studies on the vaccines’ effects on fertility were “in the works” but hedged to the DCNF that “some are still in the planning stages.”
Over a month later, the CDC is still exploring the feasibility of a study examining menstrual irregularities after the vaccine — though the agency urged pregnant and breastfeeding women to get vaccinated in early August, citing a preliminary study which found no evidence of vaccines causing higher rates of miscarriage.
“The only update I can give you is that there are discussions underway and CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) team is doing some exploratory work to determine the feasibility of conducting a study of menstrual irregularities following COVID-19 vaccination,” Sharon told the DCNF Wednesday.
Anxieties over whether the COVID-19 vaccines impact fertility have discouraged some U.S. women from obtaining the vaccines, though the CDC has not found evidence that coronavirus vaccines “cause female or male fertility problems.”
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced August 30 that it had awarded $1.67 million in supplemental grants to Boston University, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Oregon Health and Science University to “explore potential links between COVID-19 vaccination and menstrual changes.”
“Some women have reported experiencing irregular or missing menstrual periods, bleeding that is heavier than usual, and other menstrual changes after receiving COVID-19 vaccines,” the NIH said in a press release. “The new awards support research to determine whether such changes may be linked to COVID-19 vaccination itself and how long the changes last. Researchers also will seek to clarify the mechanisms underlying potential vaccine-related menstrual changes.”
“These rigorous scientific studies will improve our understanding of the potential effects of COVID-19 vaccines on menstruation, giving people who menstruate more information about what to expect after vaccination and potentially reducing vaccine hesitancy,” National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Director Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., said in a statement at the time.
An FDA spokesperson told the DCNF that vaccine recipients should report negative effects to their healthcare provider and that providers should report serious adverse effects (as well as cases of COVID-19 that result in hospitalization or death) to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
“Our goal is to provide menstruating people with information, mainly as to what to expect, because I think that was the biggest issue: Nobody expected it to affect the menstrual system, because the information wasn’t being collected in the early vaccine studies,” Bianchi told The Lily, the publication that reportedly made the NIH aware of women who believe their menstrual cycles were adversely effected by the vaccines.
Bianchi told the publication that “the [FDA] emergency use authorization was really focused on critical safety issues” and that “changes to your menstrual cycle is really not a life and death issue,” speculating that this is why coronavirus vaccine trials didn’t ask participants about adverse side effects on menstrual cycles.
But the NICHD director noted that lack of research on links between menstrual cycle irregularities and vaccines “points out the fact that safety studies for vaccines … are not necessarily thinking about the reproductive health of women.”
“We hope that one of the things that’s going to come out of this is that questions will be added to clinical trial studies to include any changes in menstrual health,” Bianchi told the Lily.
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