The NIH is studying the COVID vaccine’s reported impact on menstruation in hopes of reducing vaccine hesitancy in young women

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $1.67 million to fund research into the impact that the COVID-19 vaccine could have on menstruation and fertility and to clarify which of the vaccine’s mechanisms could be influencing reported changes to or disruptions in women’s cycles.

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The NIH has awarded one-year supplemental grants to examine commonly reported menstrual disruptions that women report as being linked to the vaccine.

“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,” a news release from the agency’s website states. “The new awards support research to determine whether such changes may be linked to [the] COVID-19 vaccination itself and how long the changes last. Researchers also will seek to clarify the mechanisms underlying potential vaccine-related menstrual changes.”

While the statement explains that immune responses to the vaccine could be connected to the cyclical disruptions, it also suggested that pandemic-related lifestyle changes or stress could also be to blame, as could the COVID-19 virus itself.

“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,” said NICHD Director Diana W. Bianchi, M.D.

The grantees are Lauren A. Wise at Boston University, Laura Allen Payne at Harvard Medical School, Mostafa Borahay at Johns Hopkins University, Stacey Ann Missmer at Michigan State University, and Alison B. Edelman at Oregon Health and Science University.

Dr. Wise recently told Boston 25 in an interview that clinical trials for the vaccine do not evaluate the effects on menstruation and that she hopes to find out “whether these changes may be short-term or long-term,” as well as the potential impact on fertility.

Any disruptions in a regular menstrual cycle is negative to a woman’s overall functional health, and if women are experiencing this so consistently following the vaccine that the NIH saw fit to invest research into what’s going on, it certainly doesn’t ease the mind.

The NIH, like other federal health agencies, has been adamant that the vaccine is perfectly safe for everyone over the age of 12, including pregnant women and women of childbearing age. More women than men are vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

Yet the NIH’s hopefulness that any research they find might convince the vaccine-hesitant to go ahead and get the jab is concerning.

What happens if this research produces evidence that the vaccine could pose a risk to the female menstrual cycle and fertility? Are we really to believe that the same agency that has been encouraging vaccination will flip the script and start warning against it, when they’re going into this in the hopes they will reduce, rather than contribute to, vaccine hesitancy?

It’s hard not to be cynical.