After the gynaecologist Stanko Pušenjak wrote a post on how the vaccine against COVID-19 could cause damage to the placenta or problems in its formation and consequent abortions, several experts in the field of immunology, microbiology, biochemistry and infectiology responded. The experts all agree that the allegations made by Pušenjak are untrue, and Pušenjak himself has also responded, apologizing for his claims. “Within a few hours, sufficient evidence and relevant sources have accumulated, which prove that the potential for an autoimmune response to the syncytin-1 protein after getting vaccinated against the Sar-cov-2 is negligible because the difference in the amino acid structure is too big or almost insurmountable,” he wrote on Facebook. Chairman of the Slovenian board for Microbiology and Immunology and professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Alojz Ihan, warned that such false news is extremely detrimental to the efforts to control the epidemic. However, the award-winning “journalist” Blaž Zgaga said that the vaccine is a threat to the existence of the Slovenian society. Experts warn that in the future, such dissemination of unverified information on the subject of vaccination may cause us to stay trapped in the epidemic for an even longer period of time.
On Sunday, a post written by the Slovenian gynaecologist and obstetrician Stanko Pušenjak found its way into the public. In his post that was published on social media, Pušenjak wrote that the vaccines, in about two-thirds of all cases, cause “the formation of antibodies that work against the surface protein of the sars-cov-2 virus, which is very similar or identical to the syncytin-1 protein, which is important in fertility and in the placenta, meaning that the immune system will be able to attack its own structures in the ovaries in females, as well as the placenta of the fetus, which are both important for the continuation of the species. In other words, about 2/3 of women could become infertile for at least some time, or perhaps even permanently, after getting vaccinated.”
On Monday, Pušenjak apologized on his Facebook profile and wrote a short explanation: “Something has become crystal clear in the last 24 hours: vaccination will almost certainly not lead to infertility, which has unfortunately not been made clear enough by those who are authorized to say it and who should provide such explanations and may also provide assurances for their statements. The rest of us can, in the best case, speak in conditionals or ask questions. I believe we all have an opportunity to learn from this. I did.”
The experts responded and unanimously rejected the thesis about the harmfulness of the vaccine
On Monday’s press conference, the infectious disease specialist Mateja Logar also said that the statement was untrue and that it spread another conspiracy theory. She noted that what is happening are generalizations of data and the use of statements that have been ripped out of context. “If you take two very long sequences, you will always find some random similarities, just like the conspiracy theory about the link between HIV1 and sars-cov-2 from a couple of months ago. And the other reason that this is false, is that we do not make antibodies against our own proteins, because cross-reactive ones are eliminated in the development of the immune system,” explained Roman Jerala, head of the research team at the National Institute of Chemistry in Ljubljana, soon after Pušenjak’s publication.
Alojz Ihan, a specialist in clinical microbiology, Chairman of the Slovenian board for Microbiology and Immunology and professor at the Faculty of Medicine, also responded to Pušenjak’s claims. He said that the news about the placental injuries is made up and has no scientific justification because such predictions about the occurrence of cross-autoimmune reactions cannot be given, or a similar cross-reaction can be “predicted” for practically every human protein, although in practice we know this is not true. “If the possibility of cross-autoimmunity was realistic, an infection with the new coronavirus would also cause miscarriages in pregnant women, as the infection produces the same antibodies as our bodies will after vaccination. But this phenomenon does not exist; gynaecologists know this best,” he explained in a statement that was sent to the public by the University Medical Centre Ljubljana.
In addition, the placental protein syncytin-1 is among the proteins, for which the immune system establishes tolerance, and therefore, no autoimmune reactions occur against such proteins. “Cross-autoimmune reactions typically occur only against the human proteins that are normally “hidden” from the immune system, for example, in the central nervous system. In this case, a pathological inflammatory process can allow the immune system to cross-recognize its own proteins and cause an autoimmune reaction,” he wrote.
Ihan further pointed out that the aforementioned fake news is extremely detrimental to the efforts of managing the epidemic and has sadly been published on a number of websites in recent days. “It really is a shame that our doctors, instead of checking the professional justifications, prefer to find their five minutes of fame by publishing fake news, which can have extremely detrimental consequences when it comes to accepting vaccinations. Without proper vaccination coverage, our country will remain trapped in the epidemic throughout the next cold season too, and the vaccination coverage of the other countries will not help protect us from the possibility of becoming an epidemic island among the countries that will get rid of the epidemic through vaccination.”
The “award-winning” journalist Zgaga also spread the fake news
One of the award-winning journalists, Blaž Zgaga, wrote that the problem of vaccination is also about the survival of the Slovenian society, which is already plagued by low birth rates. Despite the fact that the current government promotes fertility through measures such as free kindergarten and allowances for large families, unlike the previous governments, Zgaga claims that the so-called corrupt government of Janez Janša does not care about this problem. In any case, a journalist is expected to check whether the information he shares is true – with experts, before publishing his findings. Nevertheless, he spread the information in public, which, according to the experts, turned out to be false, and Pušenjak also withdrew his claims himself. The medical profession agrees that in the future, such news could critically influence people’s decision to get vaccinated and that it could result in further closures, as the experts believe that vaccination is what will save us from the disaster, caused by the coronavirus, in the future.