Doctor Debunks Claim COVID Vaccine Is Linked to Swollen Testicles After Nicki Minaj's Controversial Tweet

"My cousin in Trinidad won't get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen," Nicki Minaj wrote on Twitter Monday

Rapper Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj. Photo: Paul Zimmerman/Getty

Despite claims from Nicki Minaj that a family member's friend was rendered impotent from the COVID-19 vaccine, a public health expert tells PEOPLE this is not a side effect of the shot.

On Monday, Minaj revealed that she would not be attending the Met Gala and then shared her thoughts about the requirement to be vaccinated in order to attend this year's event.

"They want you to get vaccinated for the Met," she tweeted. "if I get vaccinated it won't for the Met. It'll be once I feel I've done enough research. I'm working on that now. In the meantime my loves, be safe. Wear the mask with 2 strings that grips your head & face. Not that loose one"

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She followed up the tweet by sharing a story about a family member's friend who she claimed "became impotent" after getting vaccinated.

"My cousin in Trinidad won't get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen," she wrote. "His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you're comfortable with ur decision, not bullied"

According to public health expert Dr. Leana Wen, impotency is not a known side effect of any of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

"It is just not true that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is associated with infertility in either males or females," Dr. Wen, who is an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, tells PEOPLE.

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"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 says, adding: "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."

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Dr. Wen also notes the risks associated with influential figures spreading misinformation about the potential side effects of the COVID-19, instead of relying on scientific evidence.

"My concern is that there are already… more than 80 million Americans who have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," the author of Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health tells PEOPLE.

"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. In times of crisis, we need for everyone to be singing from the same songbook and that is the songbook of science and evidence."

Minaj faced backlash following her tweets, including from MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid, who said on air that "as a fan, I am so sad that you did that." Minaj responded to Reid's comments on Twitter, saying that she was spreading "a false narrative about a black woman."

Minaj also hit out at other outlets claiming the stories about her were "lies".

"I cited my young child as why I didn't want to travel. But notice how NONE of them mentioned that? Ask yourself why that was," she tweeted.

A rep for Minaj did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Twitter has established guidelines prohibiting users from spreading false information regarding coronavirus. However, a spokesperson for the platform told CNN on Monday that Minaj's tweets do not violate the policy.

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Minaj also revealed Monday that she had contracted COVID-19 while working on a music video shoot.

In response to one fan who said they had received the vaccine for their job, the rapper wrote: "I know babe. A lot of countries won't let ppl work w/o the vaccine. I'd def recommend they get the vaccine. They have to feed their families. I'm sure I'll b vaccinated as well cuz I have to go on tour, etc."

Dr. Wen tells PEOPLE that Minaj, as well as anyone who contracts COVID-19 before receiving the vaccine, can get their first dose as soon as their symptoms subside.

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