Updated: January 29, 2021
As a fertility company, RMA keeps a close eye on developments in the news related to reproductive endocrinology, pregnancy, and birth.
Recently, there have been news reports about a claim that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, which received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization in November, could cause infertility in women.
The claim, made by a British former Pfizer employee and a German doctor – both of whom have downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic – is based on the idea that the vaccine could cause the immune system to attack a protein that has a critical role in the development of the placenta during pregnancy.
However, experts say this claim is flat-out inaccurate; there is no data showing a link between the Pfizer vaccine and infertility. In fact, as part of its authorization last week, the FDA left open the door for pregnant and breastfeeding women to receive the vaccine as part of the initial rollout to health care workers.
According to The New York Times, the Pfizer vaccine does not contain placental proteins or genetic material that instructs the manufacture of placental proteins. Plus, an immunologist told the news outlet, the coronavirus protein the vaccine instructs your body to make, called a spike, which tells the body to fight the virus, has “almost nothing” in common with placental proteins.
Moreover, the expert said, humans have evolved to suppress immune reactions that harm their own tissue.
In summary, there is no data to suggest the coronavirus vaccine causes infertility or fertility-related issues. There is evidence, however, that being infected with the coronavirus causes serious deleterious effects on the health of young, previously healthy individuals. Moreover, pregnancy is now a known risk factor for the development of severe COVID-19 disease.
At present, there are two types of vaccines that may be accessible to the public. The first type of vaccine (Pfizer’s BNT162b2, Moderna’s mRNA-1273) uses mRNA-based technology and does not contain a virus. This type of vaccine is believed to be safe, although these are the first vaccines of this kind. These two vaccines have received FDA approval and are being administered in the United States.
The second type of vaccine uses viral vector technology (AstraZeneca’s AZD1222). The viral vector technology has been studied in Ebola vaccine trials and found to be safe in pregnancy. This vaccine is being administered in the United Kingdom, but not present in the United States.
The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) has concluded it is advisable to administer the vaccines to pregnant women who are at high risk to contract the virus. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) do not recommend withholding the vaccine from patients who are planning to conceive, who are currently pregnant, or who are lactating. Moreover, ASRM recommends patients undergoing fertility treatment and pregnant patients should be encouraged to receive vaccination based on eligibility criteria
RMA will continue monitoring the news related to fertility and COVID vaccines and will communicate important insights to our fertility community.
Meanwhile, we hope you stay safe, wear a mask, socially distance, and limit public gatherings, especially if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.