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Indonesian health ministry rejects fabricated articles on ‘high value of unvaccinated sperm’

Indonesia’s health ministry has rubbished a screenshot shared on Facebook and Twitter that purportedly shows an article it published saying that the sperm of unvaccinated men “will be of great value in the future”. The screenshot is doctored to look like a genuine article from the ministry’s Sehat Negeriku news portal. Health experts have debunked misinformation linking Covid-19 vaccines to fertility problems.

“Good news! Sperm of Unvaccinated Men Will Be Highly Valuable in the Future,” reads a screenshot shared in a Facebook post shared on January 26, 2023.

The screenshot appears to show an article published on the same day by the Indonesian health ministry’s Sehat Negeriku news portal.

Screenshot of a Facebook sharing the fabricated article, taken on February 16, 2023

The post appears to promote the unfounded claim that sperm from donors who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 is of higher quality, a theory based on misinformation that jabs harm fertility.

The screenshot circulated days after the Indonesian government announced it would open up a second round of Covid-19 vaccine booster jabs to people aged 18 and above.

The image was shared with a similar claim on Facebook, including here, here and here, and Twitter here and here.

Some social media users appeared to believe the posts showed a genuine article from the health ministry.

“I am not vaccinated swear,” one Facebook user wrote.

“Praise be to God, I am not vaccinated against Covid,” said another comment on Twitter.

Screenshots of social media users’ comments

A keyword search on the Sehat Negeriku website found no article corresponding to the screenshot shared online.

In fact, the platform did not publish any articles on January 26, 2023, the purported publication date shown in the screenshot.

Indonesia’s health ministry said the article was a “hoax”.

“The fact is, the Indonesian health ministry has never released anything with such a headline,” it said in a statement posted on Twitter on February 16, 2023.

Health ministry spokeswoman Siti Nadia Tarmizi told AFP on the same day that the article “was not made by the health ministry”.

Moreover, the font and spacing between the author’s name and publication date in the fabricated article are different from these features in genuine Sehat Negeriku articles.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the fabricated article (left) and two genuine Sehat Negeriku articles (center and right).

Screenshot comparison of the fabricated article (left) and two genuine Sehat Negeriku articles (center and right)

Health experts said there was no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines were harmful to sperm.

Michael Eisenberg, a professor of urology and male fertility specialist at Stanford University pointed to a 2021 study from the University of Miami that compared semen samples from healthy volunteers before and two to three months after receiving two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech Covid -19 vaccines.

The study found there was no negative impact on any cement parameters, such as sperm count and concentration.

“There was no change to slight improvement after vaccination suggesting that vaccination does not impair fertility,” Eisenberg told AFP on February 22, 2023.

Siti Nadia from Indonesia’s health ministry also told AFP that there was “no relation between [Covid-19] vaccines and the sperm quality”.

The World Health Organization says Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective in reducing the risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19, and that serious adverse events are rare.

AFP has debunked a wave of similar misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines, including posts falsely linking the shots to cause erectile dysfunction, a misleading tweet from rapper Nicki Minaj suggesting they cause male impotence and a video from a US physician falsely claiming the jabs cause male sexual dysfunction.