The WHO is not working on vaccines to create ‘permanent sterility’

28 February 2023
What was claimed

The WHO has been working on a vaccine to cause permanent sterility.

Our verdict

The WHO has led research into fertility regulating vaccines but these are explicitly not designed to be permanent, and are meant to offer alternatives to already existing contraceptive methods.

What was claimed

Squalene in vaccines causes severe adverse reactions.

Our verdict

Squalene has not been shown to be harmful in vaccines, where it is present in much smaller doses than those eaten or produced inside the human body every day.

An Instagram video shows a clip of American psychiatrist Dr Rima Laibow speaking on a  2009 TV series about conspiracy theories.

In the video, Dr Laibow makes some false claims about the World Health Organisation (WHO) and vaccines. Despite being an old clip, it has racked up more than 163,000 likes on Instagram in recent weeks. 

In the full interview, she says she is talking about the swine flu pandemic, which had recently begun. We have covered many false or misleading claims about vaccines  before. 

It also links to wider conspiracy theories about the WHO, which we have also covered. Bad information about vaccines can influence the decisions people make about their health.

Full Fact has attempted to contact Dr Laibow but has not received a response at the time of writing.

This article will address two of Dr Laibow’s claims in particular. 

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WHO is not working on permanent sterility vaccines

During the interview, Dr Laibow says: “The World Health Organisation has been working since 1974 on vaccines to create permanent sterility”.

The WHO did establish a Task Force on Vaccines for Fertility Regulation in 1972 and aimed to support the development of “fertility regulating vaccines” (FRVs). 

However, these were not designed to create permanent sterility, as Dr Laibow claims, but to make it easier to administer and use contraception for people wanting to prevent unplanned pregnancy. The WHO explicitly stated that the vaccines should not have permanent effects.

So far, effective contraceptive vaccines have not become available. Neither the WHO nor the NHS currently list vaccines in their list of contraceptive options.

Squalene in vaccines does not immobilise people

Dr Laibow also falsely suggested that vaccines containing squalene are harmful.  

After stating squalene is in vaccines, Dr Laibow says: “If I inject you with squalene your immune system […] starts attacking all of the parts of your body […] What does that look like when you meet a person to whom that has happened? [...] It looks like every joint in the body swollen and intolerably painful, and immobilised.”

Squalene is a substance made by the human body which acts in a number of ways in skin and hair. It is also present in many plants we eat. Sharks produce large amounts in their livers and are a major source of squalene used in cosmetics and medicines. 

Squalene is used in some vaccines as an adjuvant—meaning it makes the active ingredient more effective. 

An example is the aQIV flu vaccines offered to some patients in the UK. The UK Health Security Agency says that a dose of this vaccine contains less than 10mg of squalene. Each day, by contrast, humans are estimated to consume between five and 20 times more in a normal diet, and the human liver produces about 100 times more. 

The addition of squalene to vaccines may increase the likelihood of minor side effects, but there is no evidence that it causes severe adverse reactions. In 2009, when the TV show first aired, no vaccines containing squalene were available in the US.


Image courtesy of United States Mission Geneva

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