Despite misleading information circulating on the internet, women hoping to become pregnant have nothing to fear from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Pamela Oliver

There are no links to fertility problems and the vaccine, said Dr. Pamela Oliver, an OB-GYN with Novant Health WomanCare in Winston-Salem and executive vice president and president of Novant Health Physician Network. She wants to dispel any myths and put minds at ease.

“There's nothing even theoretical about this, or any, vaccine, causing infertility,” she said. “It’s not a concern about future fertility, either.” Anything you hear or read to the contrary is “absolutely unfounded,” she said.

And rumors, incorrect information and outright falsehoods are out there. One that’s being spread widely and causing lots of concern is one that, as The Washington Post recently reported, “the vaccine could cause infertility by priming the immune system to mistakenly attack a protein in the placenta … purportedly similar in structure to the coronavirus spike protein.”

Scientists tested the theory and declared it “nonsense,” The Post reported.

The confusion may exist because live vaccines – the kind that use a weakened form of a virus such as measles and mumps to create immunity – are not recommended for pregnant women. But the COVID-19 vaccines are not live.

Pregnancy and the vaccine

As Healthy Headlines reported in January, one of the nation’s largest professional organizations guiding women's health, the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM), endorsed the two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna – for use during pregnancy and for nursing mothers. The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine, a viral vector vaccine, is too new to have been included.

“A viral vector vaccine uses a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to our cells,” according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Viral vector technology has been used … for other vaccine development programs. Vaccines that use the same viral vector have been given to pregnant people in all trimesters of pregnancy, including in a large-scale Ebola vaccination trial. No adverse pregnancy-related outcomes, including adverse outcomes that affected the infant, were associated with vaccination in these trials.

Two key points from the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine:

  • Pregnant women weren’t included in the clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines. A few people who received the vaccines in the clinical trials did get pregnant, and there are no reports of any problems with these pregnancies.
  • The CDC and other federal partners are monitoring people who have been vaccinated. So far, more than 30,000 pregnant women who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine have reported to the CDC about their experience. No safety problems have been reported with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and no unexpected pregnancy or fetal problems have occurred. Going forward, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be included in future reports.

One important reason to consider getting the vaccine if you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant: Pregnant people who get COVID-19 are at an increased risk for severe illness – including intensive care admission, being placed on a ventilator or death – as compared with non-pregnant people.

“This is not the time to let our foot off the gas,” said Oliver. “We’ve made such good progress. But we're all concerned about what the rest of the year could look like if we don't push through. Trust in the science, and step up and let's go get vaccinated.”