Covid-19, vaccines and erectile dysfunction

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Viral voice clips claiming a link between Covid-19 vaccines and male impotence have been doing the rounds in WhatsApp groups. 

An 11-minute, 20-second voice clip that has been circulating virally features at least two ‘interviewers’ and a man being interviewed in one of the Oshiwambo languages about his experiences of having been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The ‘interviewee’ claims to have gotten vaccinated on 21 April 2021, and says he started experiencing side effects immediately. 

At one point the female ‘interviewer’ asks the man:

“What other symptoms [side effects] did you have?”

To which the ‘interviewee’ responded:

“My head was pounding, my back was aching and I couldn’t even drive properly. I continued wondering about this sudden and new experience.” 

“Anyway, so I went to where I got vaccinated and informed the nurses about my symptoms. 

The nurses took me to the doctor and I also informed the doctor about what I was experiencing and emphasized that I just got vaccinated yesterday. The doctor asked for further details and I got pills.” 

“But before I got the pills, there was something I had forgotten to mention, which was that I was also experiencing erectile dysfunction. I didn’t mention it because I thought it was not important to mention.” 

“I went home and my wife was even asking me if I am perhaps having sex elsewhere because what else would explain the erectile dysfunction. I told her it is because of the vaccine but she wouldn’t understand.” 

It is this last sentence that has been causing a stir in WhatsApp groups recently.

What the science says

To be clear, there is currently no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccines available in Namibia are causing erectile dysfunction in men, especially older men.

No evidence has emerged that might indicate that any Covid-19 vaccines are causing male impotence, so such claims are not backed by sound scientific evidence or observation. 

However, while the vaccines do not appear to be causing or contributing to erectile dysfunction, some studies from the US and Italy have recently indicated that men who suffered Covid-19 disease might be at higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction months after having recovered from the disease. 

In one study, as reported by WebMD, “[r]esearchers armed with an electron microscope found coronavirus particles in penile tissue samples taken from two former COVID-19 patients who became impotent following their infection, which had occurred six and eight months earlier.”

“Further study revealed evidence of blood vessel damage in the penises of the COVID-19 patients, compared to two other men with erectile dysfunction who’d never been infected, the researchers reported May 7 in the World Journal of Men’s Health.”

Regarding vaccines, the WebMD article in fact states that erectile dysfunction is another reason for men to get vaccinated against COVID-19, in order not to become impotent should they contract the virus. 

It should be noted though that the science around erectile dysfunction and COVID-19 is not settled, as a lot more studies have to be conducted to conclusively show a link between the disease and male impotence.

Namibia Fact Check will monitor this topic and update this article once more evidence is available.