VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Buhay party-list Rep. Atienza privilege speech laced with false claims on anti-tetanus vaccine

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza resurrected an old, false claim that Tetanus Toxoid (TT) vaccine is “being laced with an anti-fertility element.”

STATEMENT

In a privilege speech delivered on Oct. 1, Atienza said the anti-tetanus vaccine contains pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), intended to cause sterility and result in miscarriages.

Atienza said concerns on the anti-tetanus and Dengvaxia vaccines cause mothers to not get their children vaccinated.

“...during (the) tetanus toxoid massive vaccination of women of age 14 to 44, it turned out as exposed by then, ‘yung bakuna nila ay may pampabaog (the vaccine causes sterility).

Twenty percent of women vaccinated are supposed to be sterilized. That’s their only way to reduce (the) number of Filipinos being born.

He added:

“Before that, outside and in court, we proved our point that there are vials of tetanus toxoid vaccine, innocent women as they are, 20 percent were laced with HCG element, which has no place in an anti-tetanus vaccine.

Yun po ay pampabaog. ‘Yung mga tinamaan no’n ay hindi na nagbuntis… (That causes sterility. Those vaccinated would no longer get pregnant).”

Source: House of Representatives, 18th CONGRESS 1st REGULAR SESSION #20 Day 4, Oct 1, 2019, watch from 13:38 to 15:07

FACT

The two-decade-old false claim that the Tetanus Toxoid vaccine contains HCG is untrue and unfounded. The rumor has long been debunked by several studies and global health institutions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HCG was never used in the production of anti-tetanus vaccines.

HCG is a pregnancy hormone commonly found in a woman’s placenta, secreted after implantation of the fertilized egg on the second week of pregnancy. It also helps support the implanted egg in the uterus lining, maintaining pregnancy, according to the WHO.

A 1995 WHO report debunked rumors claiming that when TT vaccine is injected on non-pregnant women, an HCG subunit will attach itself to the vaccine, developing an antibody against tetanus and HCG. This means that if a woman’s egg becomes fertilized, her natural-produced HCG will be destroyed, leading to infertility.

WHO said the TT vaccine scare started in various countries, including the Philippines, when Human Life International circulated an anti-tetanus vaccine campaign in the internet, which apparently stemmed from an Indian clinical trial on the assessment of the effectiveness of a prototype anti-fertility vaccine with HCG subunit as an active ingredient.

“There is no connection between tetanus immunisation programmes and this small clinical trial, carried out in India in 1994, and not sponsored, supported, nor executed by WHO,” the study said.

Similar fact checks on the claim that tetanus vaccines cause infertility were published by Snopes, one of the first online fact checkers, and Africa Check, a fact checking organization based in Africa.

In a statement released twenty-four years ago, WHO said “disturbing reports” about TT vaccines’ contamination of HCG that circulated in countries including Mexico, Nicaragua, Tanzania, and the Philippines, are“false and without any scientific basis.”

In the same statement, the WHO said a report submitted by a pro-life group from the Philippines on a suspected HCG-contaminated batch of tetanus vaccine underwent a “totally inappopriate test,” which produced a false positive result:

“The summary of these findings is that, without exception, when interpreted by independent laboratory staff, including those in the Philippines that conducted the original tests which started the rumour, all samples of tetanus toxoid vaccine have proved negative for hCG.”

Source: World Health Organization, Reports on Contaminated Tetanus Toxoid Vaccine are False, says WHO, July 19, 1995

WHO reiterated its position on a 2014 statement on TT vaccine, when the same false claim circulated in Kenya, Africa:

“WHO is concerned that misinformation circulating in the media about the Tetanus Toxoid vaccine could have a seriously negative impact on the health of women and children.

The Organization confirms that the Tetanus Toxoid (TT) vaccine is safe. The vaccine has been used in 52 countries, to immunize 130 million women to protect them and their newborn babies from tetanus. There is no HCG hormone in tetanus toxoid vaccines.

Source: World Health Organization, Statement on Tetanus Toxoid vaccine, Nov. 13, 2014

Former health secretaries Enrique Ona and Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial have already belied Atienza’s repeating false claims on the TT vaccine in congress hearings and health budget briefings, according to reports of GMA News Online and Philstar.com


Sources

House of Representatives, 18th Congress 1st Regular Session #20 Day 4, Oct 1, 2019

World Health Organization, Tetanus vaccines: WHO position paper, Feb. 2017

World Health Organization, Technical Report No. 471 : Endocrine Regulation of Human Gestation

World Health Organization, Reports on Contaminated Tetanus Toxoid Vaccine are False, says WHO, July 19, 1995, Retrieved Oct. 4, 2019

World Health Organization, TT vaccine controversy by the Catholic Church of Kenya, Nov. 10,

World Health Organization, Statement on Tetanus Toxoid vaccine, Nov. 13, 2014

GMA News Online, Anti-tetanus vaccine is not birth control, DOH clarifies, Oct. 30, 2010

Philstar, Tetanus vaccine hindi birth control - DOH, Oct. 31, 2010

Philippine Information Agency, Group brands tetanus vaccines as contraceptives; DOH denies allegations, Oct. 13, 2010

House of Representatives, Plenary Proceedings 17th Congress: Third Regular Session, Vol. 2 No. 22f, Sept. 21, 2018

House of Representatives, 16th Congress, Second Regular Session, Vol. 1, No. 17f, Sept. 24, 2014

House of Representatives, 16th Congress, First Regular Session. Vol 2, No. 21f, Sept. 27, 2013

House of Representatives, Committee Daily Bulletin, Budget Briefing, Vol.1 No. 10, Sept. 6, 2016

Julie Milstien, P David Griffin and J-W Lee (1995), Reproductive Health Matters. Damage to Immunisation Programmes from Misinformation on Contraceptive Vaccines,

Vol. 3, No. 6 pp. 24-28, Retrieved on Oct. 2, 2019

Human Life International, Our Mission

Snopes, Is Tetanus Vaccine Spiked with Sterilization Chemicals?, Nov. 10, 2014

Africa Check, ANALYSIS: Why does an old, false claim about tetanus vaccine safety refuse to die?, May 25, 2016



(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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