Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women?
The COVID-19 vaccines available in the UK have been shown to be effective and to have a good safety profile. The early COVID-19 vaccines do not contain organisms that can multiply in the body, so they cannot infect an unborn baby in the womb. Pregnant women were not included in the COVID-19 vaccine trials but that does not mean they are unsafe.
While there are myths on social media that the vaccine can affect fertility, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the vaccine affects fertility or the ability to carry a child to full term.
During the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine study, there were 23 study participants who became pregnant during their vaccine trial. There was one pregnancy loss, but this was in a participant who received the placebo, not the vaccine.
The antibodies produced against the Covid-19 spike protein following immunisation will not block syncitin-1 – the protein critical for the placenta to remain attached to the uterus. While the Covid-19 spike protein shares several amino acids in common with syncitin-1, it is significantly different enough for the antibodies to recognise and block this critical placental binding protein. It should be also acknowledged that this vaccine is not a ‘live’ vaccine and there is no known risk associated with giving other non-live vaccines.
While there is no evidence that acute Covid-19 infections themselves cause infertility in the short- or long-term, there has been evidence that the acute viral infection can lead to orchitis, or inflammation of the testicles. This would not be unique to SARS-CoV-2, as other viruses such as mumps, hepatitis, and Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) can cause acute inflammation, and later scarring, of the testicles.
Some pregnant women who have contracted Covid-19 have died and/or suffered fetal loss as a result of acute Covid-19 infections therefore pregnant women who are frontline health or social care workers, including carers in a residential home, can also discuss the option of vaccination. This is because the risk of exposure to COVID-19 may be higher, even if they have a lower risk of experiencing complications if they are otherwise well. The JCVI also now advises that there is no known risk in giving these vaccines to breastfeeding women.
I’m pregnant, will I be offered the COVID-19 vaccination?
Whilst there is no scientific evidence to suggest the vaccine would be harmful to pregnant women and their babies, the vaccines have not yet been tested in pregnancy. For this reason, vaccinations will not be offered to pregnant women routinely. This is case for most new medicines and vaccines and may change when more data about the COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy becomes available.
However, pregnant women in at risk groups and who are frontline health and care workers may be offered the vaccination, including;
- women with a very high risk of catching the infection; and
- those with a clinical condition putting them at high risk of severe complications
In these cases, women should discuss vaccination with their doctor or midwife to help them make their decision. They may decide that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of catching the virus.
More information on pregnancy can be found here
I am trying to get pregnant, can I get the COVID-19 vaccination?
Women who are trying to get pregnant can have the COVID-19 vaccination. There is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility and those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination.
More information on fertility can be found here
What happens if I become pregnant after my first dose of the vaccination?
If you do become pregnant after your first dose of the vaccination you may want to delay getting the second dose until after your pregnancy unless you are high risk i.e. you have a very high risk of catching the infection or have a clinical condition putting you at high risk of severe complications.
More information on pregnancy and fertility can be found here
I’m breastfeeding, can I get the COVID-19 vaccination?
Women who are breastfeeding can receive the vaccine. Whilst there is no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, in breastfeeding women and their babies, they are not thought to be a risk and the benefits of breast-feeding are well known.
More information for nursing mothers can be found here