Doctor gives insight on pregnancy, infertility, and the COVID-19 vaccine

Pfizer Vaccine
Posted at 8:23 PM, Dec 21, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Pregnant women in the healthcare industry are wondering if they should get the COVID-19 vaccine since it's available to them following the emergency use authorization.

At Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. Jennifer Thompson, an associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said the risks associated with getting COVID-19 while pregnant are far worse than the risks associated with the vaccine.

Thompson said, "They have increased risk of hospitalization, need for ICU, mechanical ventilation, and a slight increase risk in death compared to non-pregnant patients."

She said her recommendation pertains to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for her patients who are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant.

“So because of that increased risk, women who are pregnant are considered a higher risk group, and so therefore many of our organizations the CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommend that the COVID-19 vaccine should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet criteria for vaccination based on their recommended priority group,” Thompson said.

Dr. Thomspon practices what she preaches. "I actually received my vaccine on Friday, so I’m not concerned at this point about the long-term safety data," Thompson said. She noted that she’s had no side effects yet.

While pregnant women were excluded from the trials, some women joined not knowing they were pregnant. Dr. Thompson said they’ve been following those cases closely. "These numbers are really small, but we have not seen significant adverse reactions both from a pregnancy standpoint or a fetal standpoint," Thompson said.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation out there. There was an article circulating online which said the vaccine could cause infertility. Dr. Thompson said there’s no evidence to support that.

"There’s some concern that the spike protein has a similar genetic makeup to one of the proteins in the placenta, however that similarity is less than 1%, and infertility has not been found from any of the scientific data," Thompson said.

In addition, the COVID-19 vaccine is believed to be safe for women who are breast-feeding. Live vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women, but the COVID-19 vaccine is not live. “It’s an mRNA vaccine which is broken down by the body, and not incorporated into your DNA at all,” Thompson said, “Fetal risks are thought to be low due to the fact that the mRNA is broken down by your circulation and pre-clinical studies have been very reassuring.”

If you have questions, talk to your doctor. Thompson said, "What we know about the vaccine, and what we don’t know about the vaccine, is in those shared decision-making discussions for patients in deciding what’s best for them."

Moving forward, there's an effort to have registries available for pregnant women who received the vaccine through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention according to Thompson.

This article was written by Alexandra Koehn for WTVF.