The Importance of the COVID-19 Vaccine in IHR Patients:
Controversy swirls around the United States regarding the COVID-19 vaccination, particularly in relation to women hoping to conceive or are pregnant. It is a frequently asked question and concern among women of reproductive age, as the disputing information swirls through the media making it near impossible to comfortably decide about receiving the vaccine at this time. However, upon reviewing the data, it is highly advised for all women of reproductive age to roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Multiple trials and studies were conducted in order to provide moms-to-be with robust data on the safest avenue for moms and their precious miracles. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, looking to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Vaccination is particularly vital in this population due to the increased risk for serious illness that expecting mothers are at if infected with the virus. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, cohort studies documented that pregnant women were at greater risk than nonpregnant women for severe disease after infection, resulting in intensive care unit admission, mechanical ventilation and even death (Riley). Why you may ask? The answer for this increased risk lies in the bodily changes that women go through during pregnancy, thus accounting for increased risk of severe COVID-19 cases. Such physiological changes include increased heart rate due to increased blood volume, increased demand for oxygen throughout the body, increased risk for thromboembolic (blood blotting) disease, decreased lung capacity and immune function (Riley).
In addition to the increased risk for health complications in mom, there are increased risk for baby as well. Very preterm birth, which is defined as less than 32 weeks of gestation, was shown to increase by 60 percent for women infected with COVID-19 at some point in their pregnancy, while the risk of giving birth less than 37 weeks (all preterm) is 40 percent higher in those infected (Fernandez). The rate increases in women with comorbidities as well. Therefore, completing the vaccine series protects and prevents complications in the newborn in conjunction with protecting the mother.
Confusion of fact vs. myth clouds the decision of many when scheduling their vaccine appointment. Upon the release of the COVID vaccine, rumors swirled that the vaccine itself led to infertility in women of reproductive age. As dissed by Johns Hopkins Medicine, a false report was released on social media stating the “spike protein,” the protein that the vaccine introduces to the body to build antibodies, was the same protein that is involved in the growth of the placenta, thus affecting a woman’s fertility and ability to maintain a pregnancy. Not only are they different spike proteins, thus rearing the claim untrue, a Pfizer vaccine study involved 23 female volunteers that became pregnant subsequent to vaccination. The only one who suffered a loss had received the placebo during the trial, and not the actual vaccine (Kelen and Maragakis).
For most, the mentality behind encouraging the COVID-19 vaccine is to protect others as well as yourself from this virus. Protecting others, in this case, just happens to include lives that have not yet begun.
“Covid-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Nov. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html.
Fernandez, Elizabeth. “Covid-19 during Pregnancy Associated with Preterm Birth.” COVID-19 During Pregnancy Associated with Preterm Birth | UC San Francisco, University of California San Diego, 15 Nov. 2021, https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2021/08/421181/covid-19-during-pregnancy-associated-preterm-birth.
Kelen, Gabor David, and Lisa Maragakis. “Covid-19 Vaccines: Myth versus Fact.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 23 Sept. 2021, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines-myth-versus-fact.
Riley, Laura E. “MRNA COVID-19 Vaccines in Pregnant Women: Nejm.” New England Journal of Medicine, 17 June 2021, https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejme2107070.