*Last updated March 29, 2021 –
As vaccination against COVID-19 will become increasingly available, rumors surrounding the safety and side-effects of these vaccines are spreading—especially as it relates to fertility and pregnancy. We join with the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists to dispel these rumors and share their expert guidance for those with questions or concerns about vaccination.
After review and approval by the FDAs Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists recommends that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant or breast feeding individuals who meet criteria for vaccination based on other recommended priority groups.
It’s important to know that clinical studies are ongoing to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Recently, a study published in March 2021 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology demonstrated that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines are both safe and effective in offering protection to pregnant and lactating women. Additionally, this research found that vaccinated pregnant women can pass protective antibodies to their newborns, via breast milk and the placenta. This builds on previous data released by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in March 2021 which demonstrated positive self-reported safety outcomes for more than 30,000 vaccinated pregnant women who registered through the CDC’s v-safe program.
Controversy in the media has also sparked some confusion with pregnant women. The World Health Organization released a statement in January 2021 recommending that pregnant women should not receive the Moderna vaccine specifically. Several days later, the World Health Organization, stated, “Based on what we know about this kind of vaccine, we don’t have any specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women.” The seemingly conflicting statements prompted the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine to reinforce messaging that neither vaccine should be withheld from pregnant and breastfeeding women.
There has clearly been a significant amount of discussion around pregnancy and the COVID-19 vaccine. For this reason, it is important to seek trustworthy information and educate yourself so that you can make your own informed, personal vaccination decisions confidently, and based on facts. If you have concerns, don’t hesitate to discuss with your physician.
Recently, a rumor was spread across social media and news sites emanating from unsubstantiated blog posts where purported former Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline insiders suggested certain elements in the recently approved Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 caused a woman’s body to attack a certain protein which is critical in the development of the placenta, rendering them infertile. These claims have been evaluated and roundly found to be misleading and false by the World Health Organization, the CDC, Reuters, the NYTimes, and many others. There is no evidence or connection in either the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine still being evaluated for FDA approval that any such connection—or anything threating reproductive health—exists.
Many have shared concerns over how quickly these vaccines have gone through development, testing, and approval for widespread use. While the speed of development has, indeed, been unprecedented, so too has the need. Pharmaceutical companies around the world were driven by an urgent global need for a solution, and the speed at which these vaccines have been developed is a testament to both the need and their commendable drive. These vaccines have been widely tested and rigorously evaluated by both the FDA and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and have been deemed safe for use once available.
As with most vaccinations, there are certainly side-effects to be expected. While the Pfizer COVID vaccine is no different, the notion that more people will die from a vaccination than from the disease is alarmingly false. Those who have received the vaccine report common side effects lasting a few days after the second dose and typically including soreness at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and mild fever. As this is a concern of many, the CDC has even created the V-Safe program to promote widespread communication sharing about side-effects after vaccination.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has reaffirmed its position that “COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for women who are contemplating pregnancy or who are pregnant in order to minimize risks to themselves and their pregnancy.” In their latest vaccine briefing report, ASRM points out that in the randomized blinded Pfizer-BioNTech trial, a similar number of women conceived after receiving the vaccine as those who received the placebo. They also share the following reassuring explanation for those who are trying to become pregnant, or who may be newly pregnant:
The CDC has made it clear that the U.S. Vaccine safety system works, and that the many monitors and federal participants will continue to rely on trustworthy science, evidence-based clinical trials, and advanced and developing monitoring systems to make sure that any vaccine made available is safe. Further, the global response to this need and sheer volume of data from various clinical trials around the world means that we are gaining a better understanding of ways to minimize or more clearly define any expected side-effects every day. Though this is all excellent news, it remains critical to stay informed and connected to trustworthy sources of information throughout the pandemic. Axia Women’s Health is dedicated to remaining that source for our patients, and your providers welcome any concerns or questions you may have about your unique situation.
The Society of Breast Imaging recommends scheduling your screening mammogram prior to your first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination OR 4-6 weeks following the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Doing so will help to avoid incorrect results. However, if you have a concern, you should still seek care and speak with your physician.
As exciting and relieving it is to have the discourse shifting in a positive direction as we talk about vaccination and returning to “normal” life, we join with the CDC and other experts to remind you that we all need to continue to practice COVID-19 safety protocols until such time as our vaccination response and community spread is under control. Our offices and providers will continue to adhere to these protocols to ensure you always have safe access to care, and we ask that you refresh yourself on these measures prior to your next appointment.
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