Assessing and addressing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation related to vaccine impacts on fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding

Lead investigator

Professor Kristine Macartney – NCIRS Director

NCIRS collaborators

Associate Professor Frank Beard

Dr Maryke Steffens

Dr Kasia Bolsewicz

Dr Ikram Abdi

Bianca Bullivant

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Associate Professor Margie Danchin

Dr Jess Kaufman

Outcomes for Australia

This project aims to assist health authorities and other key stakeholders to address COVID-19 vaccine misinformation with effective evidence-based communication and debunking strategies for the most prevalent misperceptions.

The research will address a critical gap in evidence for high-risk groups and provide data to fill that gap. Findings will be of relevance during the current COVID-19 pandemic in Australia and potentially applicable to other vaccines, settings and for future pandemics.


Uptake of COVID-19 vaccines continues to be critical for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and returning society to normal functioning. Alongside adequate access, acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines is essential to achieve high uptake – low acceptance will compromise uptake and emergence from pandemic conditions if not addressed.

Misinformation – information not supported by evidence – can generate or exacerbate concerns about COVID-19 vaccines. It can reduce vaccine confidence, acceptance, and uptake by increasing perceptions of vaccine-associated risk and harms.

Misinformation related to COVID-19 vaccine effects on fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding is a key driver of vaccine hesitancy among both men and women of childbearing age. These concerns are particularly prevalent in some culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, where misinformation persistently circulates.

Countering misinformation is key to avoiding or minimising negative effects on vaccination attitudes, acceptance, and uptake. Developing strategies to reduce misperceptions in people planning pregnancy, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women, is important for their personal protection as a high-risk group. Building their confidence in COVID-19 vaccines will also be important for future decisions about COVID-19 vaccines for their children.


This project seeks to better understand the prevalence of misperceptions based on misinformation about the safety and impact of COVID-19 vaccines on fertility and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Online surveys will target two groups:

  1. men and women 18–45 (childbearing age)
  2. women 18 years old and above who are currently pregnant or breastfeeding.

The project will also develop and test tailored communication interventions to debunk misinformation and increase intention to vaccinate, with a strong focus on utilising social media platforms.

Related Research Areas

  • Public health research