Doctor addresses concerns surrounding COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy, infertility

Health

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Many Americans have expressed concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, especially when it comes to pregnant women and infertility. 

News 8 spoke with Dr. Loralei Thornburg from the University of Rochester Medical Center, to discuss some hesitancies expecting mothers have when it comes to getting the vaccine. 

Why are there concerns surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy? 

“There’s always this concern anytime you take anything when you’re pregnant, because there’s always this idea that nothing is better than you know, kind of the unknown. But I think when you talk about taking medications or vaccines in pregnancy, you have to think about whether or not the thing that you’re trying to avoid is riskier than the thing that you’re taking,” Dr. Thornburg said.  

“In the case of vaccines, especially vaccines that are non-live vaccines, so this includes COVID-vaccines, flu-vaccine, the Tdap vaccine, which is for whopping cough, none of these are live vaccines. You can’t get the disease from these vaccines and the diseases themselves, carry significant risk to the mother and the baby, and we have to think what we have to think about what we’re worried about avoiding. 

Dr. Thornburg also said, “Pregnancy adds a lot of pressure on the respiratory system, so the baby’s butt is getting up into your lungs and it makes it harder to breath, and there’s a lot of changes to the respiratory system and all those make it so that you’re going to get a more severe illness of any respiratory disease in pregnancy.”

What’s the risk of getting COVID-19 versus the risk of getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

“People who are pregnant who get COVID are at increased risk of getting the severe kinds of being hospitalized, or having severe complications. Whereas, the COVID vaccine, over 10,000 people who have gotten it, have not shown increase risk in pregnancy.”

The vaccine is pretty new. Is that cause for concern?

Dr. Thornburg says COVID is a a new virus and there hasn’t been years of data surrounding it, so it makes sense why people have questions. 

“Pregnant people were not included in the initial studies, so our data is limited to those who have taken the data and the risk benefit and chosen to get vaccinated. But there’s over 10,000 of those people now with really good safety data that suggests that there is no difference in them than the rest of the population, from the pregnant people who chose not to be vaccinated,” Dr. Thornburg said.

She said it’s also important to look at vaccines that are similar to the COVID vaccine for reassurance. The tetanus shot and flu shot are two of these vaccines.

“Both of those protect and have been well-studied in pregnancy with no risk. That’s why we feel confident that it’s appropriate to tell pregnant people that it’s safe and effective to take the COVID vaccine in pregnancy, knowing that the risk of COVID in pregnancy is so much higher,” Dr. Thornburg said. 

If I am pregnant and going to get the vaccine, when is the best time to do so? 

Dr. Thornburg says the answer isn’t super clear on this, but she recommends the 2nd trimester. 

“Getting the COVID vaccine, most people are going to feel a little bit yucky for a few days and that’s because COVID is not something we have ever been exposed to, so it’s a brand new thing for our body to react against. Ideally, we don’t want people to have fevers in the first trimester of pregnancy, if possible, because we know that carries a little bit of risk,” she explained. 

She said getting the vaccine in the 2nd trimester also gives you the most benefit through pregnancy to avoid the COVID disease itself. 

Can my baby get antibodies if I breastfeed and have the antibodies?

“When you make antibodies to COVID, or to whooping cough, or to influenza, the antibodies, not the virus, the antibodies, cross the placenta and give what we call “passive immunity” to the baby. So the baby will be born with some circulating antibody in its blood and that allows if they were to get exposed, them to passively resist the virus, without themselves being vaccinated or themselves getting exposed,” Dr. Thornburg explained. 

What is the vaccine doing in my body?

“Dr. Thornburg says, “It’s telling your immune system what to watch out for and it’s not having any of that that we would expect to cross the placenta or get into the baby in any way other than the antibodies that help protect you and the baby.”

Should I be concerned about infertility with the vaccine?

Dr. Thornburg says, “There really is no evidence it’s going to cause fertility issues. All of the nation societies that have looked at this in detail have really found no evidence at all, that the COVID vaccine can affect fertility or would affect fertility. 

Dr. Thornburg says if you’re pregnant and want to get the vaccine, it’s important to first talk to your provider.

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