Written by Dr. Shannon Clark
There has been increased media coverage recently as a third COVID-19 vaccine option is soon available—the Johnson & Johnson, 1-dose COVID vaccine. This additional vaccine allows more individuals to get vaccinated if they choose.
If you are considering getting vaccinated or wanting to understand more about the available COVID vaccines, then you are in the right spot! First, let’s discuss a little bit about COVID infection and vaccination as it relates to future fertility, infertility, assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments, and those trying to conceive. Recently, I spoke with Dr. Lucky Sekhon, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist in New York. In this discussion, we talk about the COVID vaccine, infertility and future fertility.
If you’re wondering if you should still get the COVID vaccine if you’re trying to conceive or are pregnant, and just can’t decide, having a discussion with your provider to assess the risk and benefits as they pertain to you is essential. As I discuss with Dr. Sekhon, much of the worry about the COVID vaccine causing infertility developed from a non-evidence-based blog post that quickly circulated. The article has since been removed because it was not proven to be true. For someone in the midst of getting artificial insemination, try scheduling your fertility treatments around your vaccination. You want to try to avoid fever or the potential for getting a fever (which can also be a side effect of the COVID vaccine). There are no specific concerns, but assume you will have a fever after the second dose of the vaccination. Make a plan with your fertility specialist; there is usually some level of wiggle room with fertility treatments so this should not hinder your ability to get the vaccination. For more information on the vaccine and fertility, visit Myth Debunked: COVID-19 Vaccine and Infertility by Dr. Lucky Sekhon. Now, let’s discuss COVID-19 in pregnancy and lactation. Although the absolute risk for severe COVID-19 is low, studies have shown that pregnant people with COVID-19 are at an increased risk for more severe illness compared with nonpregnant peers, including hospitalization, ICU admission, and mechanical ventilation and ventilatory support, and death. Pregnant patients with comorbidities such as obesity and diabetes may be at an even higher risk of severe illness consistent with the general population with similar comorbidities. As a result, the CDC has included pregnancy as a factor that leads to increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. If you are pregnant, it is important to understand how the vaccine can potentially reduce the severity of COVID-19 infection. In this video, I share the latest on COVID infection and vaccination in pregnancy and lactation.
It is your prerogative to decline or accept the COVID vaccine. If you feel like you are self-isolating, practicing hygiene to decrease transmission of infection, and are at a low riskof exposure, you may not feel like you need the vaccine. You should make that decision based on your personal risk factors and social situation. It’s also your right to get the vaccine. I have heard from some that they are getting questioned about pregnancy while trying to get vaccinated. Though this should not be happening, I’m sure it is. Fear mongering should not be part of the process, and again much of the fear around vaccination and pregnancy is based on the non-evidence-based articles that circulate on the internet and social media. Dr. Sekhon says, “The difficulty of the decision lies in the fact that there is no human safety data regarding the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy as the currently available vaccines have not been tested in pregnant women. Accepting a vaccine in pregnancy without safety data from human trials is a hard pill to swallow, especially for those who work in healthcare and are mentally programmed to make evidence-based decisions.” If you are pregnant and are at high risk for exposure, such as being a frontline healthcare worker, then getting the vaccination is highly recommended because your risk for pregnancy complications due to getting COVID infection are higher. No matter what choice you make, please make your decision based on science-based evidence rather than myths or rumors.
COVID-19 Vaccination in Pregnancy: What You Need to Know by Dr. Lucky Sekhon Vaccinating Pregnant and Lactating Patients Against COVID-19 by ACOG Pregnancy, Postpartum Care, and COVID-19 Vaccination in 2021 by JAMA COVID-19 Vaccine and Infertility: Baseless Claims and Unfounded Social Media Panic by Fertility and Sterility Dialog
Be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider if you are considering getting vaccinated and have questions. Work with your fertility specialist if you are undergoing treatments to coordinate how you can maintain your treatments while getting vaccinated. As always, share this information with your friends and loved ones. My goal is to provide you with the tools to help you make informed decisions on your fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum journey.