Should you get the COVID vaccine?
A question we get routinely these days from patients is should they get the COVID vaccine. Specifically, is the COVID vaccine safe for women, especially those women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant? Talk to ten different people about getting the vaccine and you will likely get ten different opinions. Without a clear answer, we understand your frustration.
Vaccine hesitancy is understandable given the varied information out there and the tendency of the scientific community to change its recommendations about the virus and the COVID vaccine as more research is conducted and reliable data obtained. Furthermore, many people feel they want to wait until more information about vaccine safety comes out as time goes on.
Below, we answer some of the most common questions we get about the vaccines and whether pregnant or lactating women and women wanting to get pregnant should consider getting vaccinated.
Were the vaccines researched well enough?
One reason there is vaccine hesitancy is the perception that the vaccines were rushed to the market without adequate research on possible side effects. Most new medications go through years of development and research trials to determine their efficacy and safety before they are released to the public. Because of the global pandemic causing increasing deaths and creating havoc in the economy, the U.S. government enacted the Emergency Use Authorization Act. This allowed drug companies working on a vaccine to cut through the red tape as a way to expedite the process and allow the different vaccines to be released earlier than they normally would.
However, these drug companies did conduct thorough research trials on the efficacy and safety of their vaccines. The only difference was that the EUA allowed them to expedite approval of their vaccines with the Food and Drug Administration.
Are the vaccines safe for pregnant women, lactating mothers and women trying to get pregnant?
We currently have data on over 70,000 pregnant patients who received a COVID vaccine and the data show that there were no increases in birth defects or harm to the fetus. Another recent study evaluated lactating women and found that there were increased antibody levels in the umbilical cord blood and in breast milk. This means the children born to women who have been vaccinated may be less susceptible to COVID than others.
Can the COVID vaccines impact a woman’s fertility?
There is no data that shows that any of the COVID vaccines negatively impact fertility in women. The mRNA vaccines work by using our own immune system to produce antibodies against the virus instead of using live virus that are typically used in vaccines. Early rumors linked the spiked protein found in the coronavirus with spike proteins found in the placenta causing worries that the vaccine would also target the placenta. But scientifically, these spike proteins are entirely different structures and their is no chance of any cross reactivity. In fact, “spike protein” is rather a generic scientific term and there are many spike proteins throughout our body.
What could happen if I don’t get the vaccine but get pregnant and subsequently get COVID-19?
Since pregnancy is considered an immunocompromised state for women, getting the COVID-19 virus without the protection of the vaccine may result in a more serious infection. We know from research data that pregnant women who get COVID-19 are at increased risk of hospitalization, being intubated, and even death than women who are not pregnant. Additionally, many pregnant women have medical conditions that put them at further increased risk of serious infection.
The bottom line
We are gaining ground on this pandemic, but it will take more people getting vaccinated for our lives to be back to normal. This is not a political issue, it is a health issue. The bottom line is that the vaccine is safe for you and your baby. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to get pregnant, you should strongly consider getting vaccinated.