Fact or Fiction: COVID vaccine safety for pregnant & nursing moms
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - This time next week more people will be eligible to get COVID-19 shots as our state moves into the second phase for vaccinations.
That next group includes all pregnant women.
Roper Healthcare Dr. Melissa Ellis-Yarian says pregnant women were not included in initial COVID-19 vaccine trials, so we don’t have long-term data on that group yet. But the CDC reports more than 78.6 million vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. so far.
“And among them have been pregnant women and nursing mothers,” Dr. Ellis-Yarian said. “I include myself in that latter group. So far, the results have been encouraging. It’s a step people are choosing to take to protect themselves and their babies because we know the risk of Covid causing complications in pregnant women is high.”
The important thing is for pregnant women to avoid getting COVID at all, she said.
The CDC reports pregnant people who catch the virus have a higher chance of going to the ICU, needing a ventilator, preterm birth, and even death.
“It’s really just a risk benefit analysis. What is going to protect you and your baby what has the least likelihood of causing harm?” Dr. Ellis-Yarian said.
Experts from Harvard Medical School say within hours or days, “our bodies eliminate mRNA particles used in the vaccine, so these particles are unlikely to reach or cross the placenta... The immunity that a pregnant individual generates from vaccination can cross the placenta, and may help to keep the baby safe after birth.”
According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, experts also believe there’s little risk for women who are breastfeeding to get the vaccine. “During lactation, it is unlikely that the vaccine lipid would enter the blood stream and reach breast tissue,” their experts said.
In fact, it’s likely the mother’s protective COVID antibodies might pass through breast milk to the baby. “Antibodies transferred into milk may therefore protect the infant from infection with SARS-CoV-2,” the ABM explained.
One theory circulating on social media is that fertility might be harmed by the Covid-19 vaccine.
Dr. Ellis-Yarian says that is not true. “The two vaccines that we have, Pfizer and Moderna, are MRNA vaccines. Messenger RNA. That does not enter the nucleus of your cells, that’s where your DNA is contained. So it cannot alter your DNA. MRNA does not enter sperm cells or eggs or embryonic cells, so it doesn’t affect fertility.”
She encourages patients to talk to their doctors now about when they’ll be eligible for the vaccine. “Especially if they have underlying health conditions like diabetes, respiratory conditions, even obesity can increase your risk of complications from Covid. So it’s really important to do everything you can to protect yourself and your baby,” she said.
Anyone who gets the vaccine may experience flu-like symptoms, which are considered normal.
But call your doctor if reactions last more than three days in case you’re sick with something else like the flu.
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