Question 1: I work in healthcare and received the first dose of COVID vaccine. But after receiving the shot, I found out I was pregnant. I changed jobs so that I am not at significant risk anymore. Should I get the second shot?
Question 2: I’m pumping and supposed to get the COVID vaccine. I know there isn’t much to say on the COVID vaccine but wondering if you would recommend getting it or not?
These are just a sample of the questions that we have received from individuals who are trying to make the best decisions for themselves during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Juggling all of the information can be daunting and concerns about how quickly the vaccine came on the market and the lack of data for pregnant and breastfeeding individuals has caused a great deal of uncertainty. Well, it is for situations like this that MotherToBaby exists. We are here to help, so let’s get to it!
First, is the COVID-19 vaccine safe since it came on the market so fast?
There are many reasons why the vaccine was able to come to the market in a short period of time. One of the reasons is due to medical advances in vaccine development which allowed researchers to develop the vaccine in a shorter period of time than traditional vaccines. The technology used to develop the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines (mRNA) was not new and has been around for some time. While these are the first vaccines on the market using mRNA technology, mRNA was being used to study other viruses. Secondly, due to collaborative efforts, China promptly shared genetic information about the COVID-19 virus, so scientists could start working on vaccines pretty early.
Importantly, the criteria for evaluating vaccine safety did not change and had to be met regardless of the pandemic. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a respected infectious disease expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the process has been transparent and independent of the influence of pharmaceutical companies or politics. Each vaccine trial had a safety and data monitoring board of scientists that reviewed the data independent from any influence of the pharmaceutical companies. Once the data satisfied the requirements of the board, the companies submitted the data to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and a “premier” group of scientists along with their advisory committee worked together to make sure the data met the required standards. The process was transparent and independent and everyone can take a look at the data. Because COVID-19 is so contagious and widespread, it did not take long to see if the vaccine was effective in those who were vaccinated voluntarily. No corners were cut; it was still a thorough process to bring a vaccine to the market that was safe and effective.
Will it affect my ability to get pregnant?
Concerns about the vaccines’ impact on fertility were generated by false social media reports claiming that the vaccine would cause the body to falsely attack a protein that is needed to attach the placenta to the uterus and then develop properly. This is false because the COVID-19 vaccine triggers the body’s immune system to fight the specific protein on the coronavirus surface. It is a targeted response against the coronavirus and no other parts of the body. Therefore it will not affect fertility including those who go thru in-vitro fertilization methods (IVF). As a matter of fact, 23 women who were involved in the trials became pregnant. Only one individual suffered a pregnancy loss and she did not receive the vaccine but rather the placebo.
Is the vaccine safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women?
While there are no safety data specific to the use of the vaccine during pregnancy and breastfeeding, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant or breastfeeding individuals who meet the criteria for vaccination based on ACIP-(Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommended priority groups. Based on the history of other similar vaccines (inactivated) in pregnancy and breastfeeding, experts do not believe that mRNA vaccines (like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) would increase the risk of harm to the fetus or to infants. It is encouraged that you talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of getting the vaccine during pregnancy.
Does the vaccine cause serious side effects?
There have been claims on social media that the virus can cause severe shaking and convulsing from very convincing videos and that the government is not telling the truth about the safety of the vaccines. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and the FDA report that the most common side effects are pain where the vaccine is injected, body aches, headaches or fever. These symptoms generally do not last more than two days. If they last longer, you can call your doctor. In regard to the shakes and convulsions, more than 51 million doses of the vaccine have been given globally so far and the data has not identified these symptoms as side effects of the vaccine.
You can report side effects and reactions using either of two systems:
- V-safe is a new smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines.
- Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is the national system that collects reports from healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and the public of adverse events that happen after vaccination
After receiving the vaccine, it is still important to wear face masks, wash your hands, and socially distance. The vaccine doesn’t make you immune, but it helps your body to fight off the effects to give you a fighting chance if you get infected. So please still follow all the guidelines after receiving the shot.
Myths about the vaccine
I have heard many falsehoods circulating on social media that have had many of my friends and family question getting the vaccine including but not limited to:
- Getting the vaccine gives you COVID
- The COVID vaccine enters cells and changes your DNA
- COVID-19 vaccine was developed with or contains controversial substances such as implants, microchips or tracking devices.
- More people will die from the side effects of the vaccine than the virus
These claims have no basis in fact; please check out these resources for more information: COVID-19 Vaccine Myths Debunked and COVID-19 Vaccines: Myth Versus Fact.
Please get your information from trusted scientific resources or institutions like the FDA, CDC, ACOG, Mayo Clinic, John Hopkins, Harvard Med or those that end with .org or .edu.
MotherToBaby also has a webpage devoted to COVID and the vaccine filled with information and resources that you can review for pregnant and lactating individuals:COVID 19: What You Need To Know
In addition, MotherToBaby is doing its best to gather information for pregnant and lactating individuals by conducting studies. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and tested positive for COVID-19, please consider enrolling in our observational study. You will not be asked to take or change any medications, and you can participate from the comfort of your home.
The Take Away
Overall, whether you are planning for pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding, based on the history of other vaccines, you do not have to be afraid to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The data from clinical trials has been reassuring and no corners were cut. Please seek out solid medical advice from trusted resources. The goal of the vaccine is to protect you and not harm you.
So if you make the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine, roll up your sleeves with confidence and say, “Go ahead, hit me with your best shot!”