Urologists react to Aaron Rodgers’ comments on COVID-19 vaccine and male infertility

On November 5, an interview with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers aired on The Pat McAfee Show,1 sparking several reactions from urologists across Twitter. How does a sports talk show garner this much attention from the field of urology? Clinicians had a lot to say after learning the reason why Rodgers has not yet been vaccinated.

“The next chapter of my life, I believe, is being a father and it’s something that I care about a lot,” said Rodgers. “And, to my knowledge, there’s been zero long-term studies around sterility or fertility issues around the vaccines, so that was definitely something that I was worried about.”

The backlash from this viral video2 stems from when Rodgers tested positive for COVID in early November, despite the strict safety protocols implemented by the National Football League for the 2021-2022 season.

In a subsequent interview with McAfee following the backlash,3 Rodgers did not retract his comments; however, he did take responsibility for the controversy he sparked and does not plan to publicly share his COVID-19 vaccination opinions in the future.

“I’m an athlete, I’m not an activist,” said Rodgers. “So, I’m [going to] get back to doing what I do best. And that’s playing ball…I shared my opinion. It wasn’t one that was come to frivolously. It involved a lot of study, and what I felt like was in my best interest for my body. But further comments…I’m going to keep between myself and my doctors.”

To provide a clinical perspective on Rodgers's claims regarding the vaccination and male infertility, Urology Times reached out to 3 experts in the field. Here are their reactions to the controversy:

“Following the arrival of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, we conducted a study examining the sperm parameters of healthy young men before and after vaccination and found that vaccination did not decrease sperm parameters of men.

Of note, there have been no studies demonstrating that vaccines negatively impact fertility or cause sterility in either sex; however, evidence suggests COVID-19 infection can lead to negative reproductive health issues. Our latest study published in October has shown that COVID-19 vaccines are protective of COVID orchitis which can cause decreased sperm counts and subsequent infertility in some men.

If infertility is your main reason for remaining unvaccinated studies have proven over and over again [that] COVID vaccines are safe and effective.”

Ranjith Ramasamy, MD
Associate Professor, Director of Reproductive Urology
Miller School of Medicine
University of Miami, Florida

“Because the vaccines contain mRNA and not the live virus, it is unlikely that the vaccine would affect sperm parameters. And the studies show that no changes in any sperm parameters have been found after 2 doses of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.

Here’s a study for you, Aaron: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2781360.”

Mary K. Samplaski, MD
Associate Professor of Urology
Director of male infertility, Andrology, and Microsurgery
Institute of Urology
University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

“There have been no studies linking COVID-19 vaccines to worsened semen parameters or causes of male infertility. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use mRNA, not live virus, so it would be unlikely that sperm production is affected.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does use a modified virus that is not the COVID-19 vaccine, but no studies have shown any links to impaired study parameters. Therefore, recent comments on vaccine links to male infertility are not evidence-based.”

Denise Asafu-Adjei, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor, Department of Urology
Director of Male Reproductive Medicine
Loyola University Medical Center
Chicago, Illinois

References

1. The Pat McAfee Show YouTube page. Accessed November 11, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGQ2fcaf70w

2. @therecount. Aaron Rodgers says he's partly resisting the vaccine because of [unfounded] fears of infertility: "The next great chapter of my life I believe is being a father ... to my knowledge there's been zero long-term studies around sterility or fertility issues around the vaccine." https://twitter.com/therecount/status/1456679159644794890. Posted November 5, 2021.

3. The Pat McAfee Show YouTube page. Accessed November 11, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGQ2fcaf70w