COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility, prominent experts say
It’s understandable if you have questions about COVID-19 vaccines. And if you are planning a pregnancy or actively trying to get pregnant, social media posts may worry you about possible side effects.
In particular, you may have seen viral social media posts warning women that COVID-19 vaccines can make you infertile, which is not what you want to hear when you yearn for the sound of your heartbeat. your baby during a future ultrasound.
The good news? These rumors are not rooted in science, and in truth, there is a lot of strong evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for all women, whether they are trying to get pregnant, are currently pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant. at one point. in the distant (or not so distant) future, experts say.
Here’s what you need to know to feel comfortable planning your shot when you become eligible.
How did the COVID-19 vaccine infertility rumors start?
A myth linking one of the COVID-19 vaccines to infertility has been circulating on various social media and blogging platforms.
The rumor stems from a letter written to the European Medicines Agency by a German doctor and a former Pfizer employee. The letter called for clinical trials of the Pfizer vaccine to be stopped in the European Union until the company can provide more safety data.
The duo wrote that they were concerned that the spike proteins found in COVID-19 are similar to a spike protein in the placenta called syncytin-1, and that the antibodies developed from the vaccine could, in theory, bring on the body to attack the placenta, leaving women infertile. Their petition has spread like wildfire on social media, with articles claiming the vaccine “causes female sterilization.”
“My family and friends have called me to ask about these rumors because a friend of a friend is trying to get pregnant and is frantic,” says Oluwatosin Goje, MD, obstetrician / gynecologist at the Cleveland Clinic and member of What to Expect a Medical Review Panel. “But with a little digging, those worries are easy to dispel.”
What are leading experts saying about COVID-19 vaccines and fertility?
These claims are not at all confirmed by science. “There is currently no evidence that vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems – pregnancy problems,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky wrote in an article contributed to What to Expect. “You don’t need to delay or refuse the COVID-19 vaccination if you hope to get pregnant.”
Leading experts from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) all came together to publish a statement last February, pointing out that there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine can lead to loss of fertility.
Although fertility has not been specifically studied in clinical trials of the vaccine, the groups point out that no loss of fertility has been reported among female trial participants or among the millions of women who have received the vaccines since their birth. authorization, nor show any signs of infertility. appeared in animal studies.
What’s more, the two spike proteins found in the COVID-19 virus and in the placenta are different enough that it’s highly unlikely that your body is mistaken for between the two, Dr. Goje points out.
“The term ‘spike protein’ is relatively new to all of us, so a lot of lay people hear the word and don’t fully understand what it means,” she explains. “But even the doctors themselves who wrote the original letter acknowledged that there was no evidence that antibodies to the COVID-19 spike protein would also act as anti-Syncytin-1 antibodies.”
Additionally, if the German doctor’s theory were true, it would result in increased miscarriages rather than difficulty conceiving, as the problem would lie in the placenta, adds Dr. Goje. Yet the data does not confirm this.
“We have seen absolutely no evidence of this in animal model studies, and data collected from the CDC now from pregnant women who have received the vaccine shows that this does not happen,” she said. .
How do COVID-19 vaccines work and how do we know they’re safe?
To understand why COVID-19 vaccines are considered safe, including for women trying to get pregnant and those who are pregnant, it may be helpful to take a crash course in how they work.
- MRNA vaccines: Two of the licensed COVID-19 vaccines, the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, are mRNA vaccines. They contain messenger RNA, or mRNA, a genetic material that tells your body how to make proteins (in this case, it teaches your cells how to make a piece of the spike protein found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19). After that, your immune system realizes that the protein is not in your body and begins to develop an immune response and make protective antibodies, just as it would if you were naturally infected with COVID-19. Contrary to some rumors, mRNA vaccines do not contain the live virus, nor can they modify the DNA of your cells. “Researchers have studied mRNA vaccines for decades for diseases like influenza, Zika and even cancer, so we have a lot of solid safety data,” says Mark Payson, MD, OB / GYN, endocrinologist at the reproduction and fertility specialist at CCRM Northern Virginia. in Vienna, and member of the What to Expect Medical Review Board.
- Viral vector vaccines: The Johnson & Johnson / Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccine is slightly different. Viral vector vaccines like this use a deactivated version of a live virus to pass the genetic material of the COVID-19 virus into cells in your body. Once done, the vaccine instructs your cells on how to make the COVID-19 spike protein, just like the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines do. Its adenovirus platform (known as AdVac) has also been used for years in the development of the company’s Ebola vaccine, as well as in vaccine candidates against HIV, RSV and Zika, its safety data are therefore solid, notes Dr. Payson.
What should you know about COVID-19 vaccines if you are trying to get pregnant?
Leading experts including the CDC, ACOG and SMFM agree that anyone who is pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding should receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Since August 2021, the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine has obtained full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with Moderna and J&J vaccines to follow, experts say. All three vaccines are already cleared for emergency use by the FDA.
In addition, more than 160,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated as of October 12, and groups such as CDC, ACOG and SMFM say there is plenty of concrete evidence showing that vaccines are safe and effective during pregnancy. .
“We know that contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy is a significant risk factor for miscarriage, and that pregnant women are more likely to end up in intensive care and even die than women of the same age who are not pregnant. », Explains Dr Payson.
The COVID-19 vaccine is available free to everyone in the United States, regardless of immigration status or whether or not you have health insurance. To find a COVID-19 vaccination site near you, visit Vaccines.gov.