Let’s talk testicles! Hey, it wasn’t OUR idea. Nicki Minaj brought it up, okay? The rap superstar and fashion icon took to Twitter yesterday to make some highly contentious claims about COVID vaccines and, that’s right, the aforementioned unmentionables. Saying that she was skipping this year’s Met Gala (a loss for both her and those of us who would have loved to see her on the red carpet) Minaj explained that her no-show was due to the event’s mandatory vaccination policy.
All in all, the tweet isn’t completely unreasonable. Nicki clearly isn’t a COVID denier and is advocating for continued mask-wearing. Also, like Minaj explained in a separate tweet, the Met Gala is definitely not at the top of the list of reasons that people should be vaccinated (those spots are reserved for things like slowing the spread of the Delta variant, protecting young children and populations who can’t get the vaccine for health reasons, and returning more quickly to something that looks like normal-ish life). It was Minaj’s follow-up tweet that was far more problematic.
Recounting a story that sounds a lot like broken telephone, Nicki tweeted:
First of all, thoughts and prayers to Nicki’s cousin’s friend. Swollen testicles plus a broken heart sound like a serious bummer. That said, this is so clearly a case of anecdotal storytelling in which a man gets a vaccine, gets some bathing suit area swelling, and gets dumped. Are the three connected? Your answer is as good as a magic eight ball. Which is why doctors are a thing.
Here’s what the professionals have to say: "It is just not true that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is associated with infertility in either males or females," Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency doctor who works at George Washington University told People. "In fact, we know that there are actually consequences, if somebody gets COVID-19, in terms of the impact on the male reproductive system," she explained. "There have been studies that have linked scrotal discomfort and low sperm count to having COVID-19. In addition, there has been an association between scrotal swelling and congestion to having COVID-19. So, to emphasize, these are not associated with the vaccine but with the disease."
The best thing about Nicki (aside from her ever-presence on Twitter) is that she actually listens to fans and followers who disagree with her.
The not so great thing (and this goes for both Nicki and social media in general) is that many people won’t read the tweets like the one above — they’ll focus solely on the testicle tweet which has the potential to increase vaccine hesitancy in a country where rates are already disappointingly low. As of yesterday, only 54.5% of Americans were fully vaccinated. In Canada, nearly 70% of the population is fully vaccinated despite slower access to supplies and rollout of vaccine programs.
"More than 80 million Americans who have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," said Dr. Wen. "Many of these individuals have heard misinformation and disinformation about the vaccine and are understandably scared as a result. It is extremely harmful to them to have influential figures, including celebrities with a large social media following to perpetuate this information."
A lesson for us all, really: think before you tweet (about COVID, and other stuff, too).
[video_embed id='2281253']BEFORE YOU GO: Canadians own the red carpet at the Met Gala [/video_embed]