The Coronavirus Vaccine & Infertility: What You Need to Know

By Amichai Perlman, PhD, PharmD
Medically reviewed
May 23, 2021

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. 

The currently approved COVID-19 vaccines do not change human DNA, show no signs of impacting fertility, or harming 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.

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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 currently approved COVID-19 vaccines are not expected to negatively affect a baby in utero. 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 interact with human DNA and cannot cause disease, and data from animal studies do not suggest any harm during pregnancy.

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.

In addition, according to the CDC the first two mRNA based COVID-19 vaccines have already been given to tens of thousands of women during pregnancy, and there are no “red flags” or signs the vaccines are linked to significant safety concerns during pregnancy. The “viral vector” used for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been used in studies of other vaccines used in pregnant women with no negative outcomes.

According to the CDC, the currently approved 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 following factors:

  • 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
  • The lack of data about the vaccine during pregnancy

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 interact with human DNA and cannot cause disease. The data from animal studies, as well as from women receiving the vaccines thus far, do not suggest any harm during pregnancy.

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 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 12. Results showing the Moderna vaccine is also safe and effective in children aged 12-17 have recently been announced and are pending review and consideration for approval by the FDA. Research on the vaccines in younger ages is underway and results are expected later this year.

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.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Amichai Perlman, PhD, PharmD

Dr. Perlman is a clinical pharmacist and pharmacoepidemiologist, with over 10 years of experience advising patients and clinicians on medication use, personalization, and safety. He has extensively published peer-reviewed research addressing medication safety.