Ever since the COVID-19 virus wreaked havoc, a number of rumours and conspiracy theories have sprung up about the infection and vaccines related to the condition. By June 2021, 19 vaccines had received authorization from at least one national regulatory body and were deemed acceptable for public use.
The Background of COVID-19 Vaccines
Despite recommendations from various national governments and international and domestic healthcare institutions to take the vaccines, misconceptions regarding them are still flourishing. This is renewing vaccine hesitancy.
One of the biggest misconceptions has been the myth that the COVID-19 vaccine can negatively impact fertility. Common areas of concern have revolved around whether the vaccine can prevent women from conceiving, not carry through the pregnancy to full-term or if there is the slimmest of possibilities of women becoming infertile.
Misinformation Regarding COVID-19 & Infertility
The theory that hit the headlines in December 2020 was that the COVID-19 vaccine could cause female sterilization. This misinformation spread when German physician Wolfgang Wodarg and ex-Pfizerscientist Michael Yeadon made scientifically unfounded statements that the mRNA vaccines may lead to infertility in women as they could affect the syncytin-1 protein required for its placenta formation.
Another theory that has been doing the rounds in this misinformation campaign against vaccines is that it can cause the body to generate spike proteins.
Around the time when these rumours started circulating on various social media platforms, all the COVID-19 vaccines that had received the green light for emergency use comprised of mRNA or mRNA precursors that generated the spike protein. Incorrect claims stated that a vaccinated individual could ‘give off’ spike proteins, resulting in irregular menstrual cycles. Perhaps even more bizarre were the rumours that a vaccinated person could impact the reproductive health of a non-vaccinated woman if she came close to the latter.
COVID-19 Vaccine Affects Fertility: Refuting the Myth
If you are pregnant or are planning to conceive, it is imperative to note that there is no scientific proof that the COVID-19 vaccine will affect your pregnancy or fertility. Studies have shown, like other vaccines, once you are administered the COVID-19 vaccine, its components travel to your lymph glands.
In a few days, they are removed as waste products from your body. So, there is no way in which the COVID-19 vaccine could negatively impact your current or future fertility.
Decoding the mRNA Vaccine
The COVID-19 vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, so let us first try to understand what that means. An mRNA vaccine means messenger RNA vaccine. So, it does not incorporate into your DNA, nor are you being given the virus. You are being given a messenger copy which then gets translated into proteins to make antibodies. The antibodies, in this case, are the spike proteins.
So, while the COVID-19 vaccine does have spike protein, it is a significant part of how the vaccine works. There are many amino acid sequences similar to other proteins throughout our body, not just syncytin-1.
Even if we imagine for a second that the spike protein was similar to syncytin-1 and so, developing antibodies to the coronavirus would mean developing antibodies to syncytin-1, we will also then expect to see issues with placentation in pregnancy during or after COVID infections. No record of this has been observed to date.
Indicative Symptoms of the COVID-19 Vaccine Negatively Impacting Pregnancies
Simply put, the proof is in the pudding.
A tell-tale sign that a vaccine is ‘dangerous’ for pregnant women would be highlighted via an increase in the number of first trimester miscarriages. Studies have shown that asymptomatic women, which means they have no symptoms but have COVID-19, have not experienced an increase in miscarriages.
Even in symptomatic women, there has been no noticeable increase in miscarriages. So, it seems that COVID-19 does not heighten the possibility of miscarriages.
Therefore, the fact that we see no correlation between placental abnormalities and women who have had COVID-19 is reassuring that the vaccine should not cause similar problems.
Should Pregnant Women or Women Who Want to Conceive Take the COVID-19 Vaccine?
To put it bluntly, these concerns have no scientific backing. In the absence of research and scientific findings, it is inappropriate to suggest or claim that the COVID-19 vaccine can affect fertility in women.
From what the studies have revealed so far, it seems safe for pregnant women or those wanting to start a family soon to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine protects against a real risk, and from everything that we have observed thus far, it is a far better option than not taking the vaccine in the balance of risks and benefits.
If you are on your way to starting a family and are still hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine, feel free to schedule an appointment with MotherToBe, headed by Dr Vyjayanthi, an experienced Fertility Specialist in Hyderabad. We are happy to lay all your doubts to rest to ensure that the experience of starting a family is a joyous and healthy one for you.