Ines Chomnalez, Contributing Photographer

A crowd of about 30 New Haven residents and Yale affiliates gathered on the New Haven Green on Friday to protest Yale’s COVID-19 bivalent booster mandate for students.

The protest was organized by TeamReality CT, an activist group dedicated to pushing back against vaccine mandates across various universities. The group submitted a letter to Yale University President Peter Salovey demanding an end to the mandate and accusing the University of “medical experimentation” on its students. 

The protest featured speeches from various individuals who have spoken out against COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Naomi Wolf ’84, a feminist author and outspoken COVID-19 vaccine skeptic, delivered the keynote address. Wolf told the News that she does not consider herself broadly anti-vaccine, but thinks it is “fair game” for people to ask questions about other government-mandated vaccines. 

“I never pay attention to other vaccines,” Wolf said. “That’s not my concern. I don’t care that it’s a vaccine, I care that it’s damaging young people.”

COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be effective. According to the Centers for the Disease and Control, “bivalent boosters provided significant additional protection” from COVID-19 in people who had previously received multiple monovalent shots, something the University required for all students at the beginning of 2022.

During her address, Wolf spoke at length about the adverse health effects she claims that the COVID-19 vaccine has been connected to. She claimed a purported correlation between infertility and menstrual irregularities in women and the rate of vaccination in those women’s communities.

According to the CDC, there is no evidence demonstrating that vaccines of any kind — including the COVID-19 vaccine — cause fertility problems for men or women. There is research demonstrating that contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy can result in worse outcomes than for non-pregnant individuals and the CDC strongly recommends any pregnant individuals to get vaccinated.

Dr. Hugh Taylor ’83 — Chair of the Department of Obstetrics Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine, and Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale-New Haven Hospital — told the News that there has been no research tying adverse effects in fertility to the Pfizer vaccine. 

“There’s no risk to fertility or to a pregnancy,” Taylor said. “But on the other hand, there’s a tremendously increased risk of complications from the virus if you are pregnant when you get COVID. The risk of major complications in pregnancy and even death significantly increase in pregnant women compared to others of the same age.”

Wolf — a Rhodes Scholar — rose to prominence in the 1990s. Her work was widely praised by feminist figures like Gloria Steinem, and she became integrally associated with the third wave feminist movement. She was also involved in politics, advising U.S. President Bill Clinton on how to attract female voters.

Wolf told the News that she is a lifelong Democrat and does not view her choice to protest vaccine mandates as partisan by nature.

Since 2014, public perception of Wolf has shifted from viewing her as a feminist icon to labelling her as a conspiracy theorist. In 2021, she was banned from Twitter for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

During her speech, she claimed that the University’s COVID policy violated Title IX, which commits universities to not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender in getting an equal education. Wolf claimed that the adverse health effects of the vaccine disproportionately affected women, and so, University vaccine mandates were discriminatory by nature.

Taylor told the News that while there has been some research demonstrating a relationship between the COVID vaccine and menstrual irregularities, those irregularities did not represent a health risk. 

He explained that a recent study had shown that menstrual cycles were on average one day different after taking the vaccine, but that menstruation eventually returned to normal. 

“There absolutely can be changes to the menstrual cycle, and it’s important people know that,” Taylor said. “The flip side is it’s not harmful, it goes away. It may come back to normal within a cycle or two, and it doesn’t have any lasting, dangerous repercussions.”

Cheryl Martone, a Windham, Connecticut resident and attendee of the protest, told the News that she had become interested in protesting vaccine mandates after engaging in custody struggles with the government over her children. 

Wolf told the News that she was not involved with TeamReality CT, and that she had never met other attendees prior to the protest.

The Pfizer vaccine was released on Dec. 11, 2020.

Ines Chomnalez writes for the University desk covering Yale Law School. She previously wrote for the Arts desk. Ines is a sophomore in Pierson College majoring in History and Cognitive Science.