There are lots of rumors floating around about the coronavirus vaccine. One of the most prevalent, it seems, is about the COVID-19 vaccine and its ramifications for fertility.
After getting lots of patient questions on this topic, we thought we’d ask Dr. Amichai Perlman to give us some answers. Here, he dives into whether or not the vaccine affects fertility, what the long term risks might be, and more.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect long-term fertility? Is there a difference in risk between women and men?
There is no scientific basis to the rumors about the relationship between the COVID-19 vaccines and infertility in women or men.
The rumors are related to a theory that proposes there is similarity between the coronavirus spike protein and a protein common in the placenta, a temporary organ which grows with the fetus and is responsible for exchange of nutrients and waste between the fetus and the mother.
The coronavirus vaccines induce antibodies to the coronavirus protein. As a result, some proposed that these antibodies could interfere with the development of the placenta and thereby harm pregnancy and long term fertility.
This proposition has been evaluated and tested by scientists and found to be false. There is almost no similarity between these proteins, and antibodies specific to the coronavirus protein do not create an immune response to the placenta.
In addition, the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain a live virus and do not enter the cell nucleus or change human DNA. This means that the vaccine does not harm reproductive tissue in any way, shape or form. This has been confirmed by studies of male and female animals. No reduction in fertility has been reported in women who have had COVID-19, or in women receiving the COVID-19 vaccines.
If I’m trying to get pregnant right now, should I wait until after to get the vaccine? Is there any reason to avoid getting vaccinated while trying?
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends vaccination in women contemplating pregnancy or actively trying to become pregnant, and who meet current vaccine prioritization criteria. It is not necessary to delay pregnancy after receiving both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
If pregnant women take the vaccine, will it negatively affect the baby?
The currently approved COVID-19 vaccines are not expected to negatively affect the baby. The vaccines have not been tested on pregnant women, but all of the science behind the vaccinations indicates that they will not negatively affect a baby. The vaccines do not contain a live virus and do not enter the cell nucleus or change DNA. Also, data from animal studies do not suggest any harm.
Contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy is not associated with birth defects. In fact, the virus rarely ever reaches the baby. This means it is unlikely the vaccine would affect the baby.
While the vaccine clinical trials were not meant to include pregnant women, some women were found to have been pregnant after receiving the vaccine, and no negative effects were observed in these patients.
According to the CDC and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the currently approved mRNA vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to the pregnant person or the fetus, though as they were not tested in pregnancy the actual risk remains unknown.
Because COVID-19 in pregnancy is associated with significant risk of complications, and experts believe these vaccines are unlikely to pose risk, the use of these vaccines is permitted during pregnancy.
According to the CDC, when making a decision regarding vaccination, pregnant women and their healthcare providers should consider the level of COVID-19 community transmission, the patient’s personal risk of contracting COVID-19, the risks of COVID-19 to the patient and potential risks to the fetus, the efficacy of the vaccine, the side effects of the vaccine, and the lack of data about the vaccine during pregnancy.
Will a vaccine be developed specifically for children, teens and pregnant women?
There are studies underway evaluating the current vaccines in children and pregnant women.
The Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine has already been approved for emergency use from age 16, and has already begun enrolling children from age 12 in the clinical trials.
A trial evaluating the Moderna vaccine in children aged 12-17 vaccine is also underway, and results are anticipated later.
Data on cases of pregnancy which have occurred during the current trials is being collected and evaluated, as well as on pregnant women receiving the vaccine in practice. Trials of the vaccine in pregnancy are also being planned. We will have plenty more data to support the science very soon.