The COVID-19 vaccination programme has already been a huge success in the UK, with over 20 million people receiving their first dose in just three months. But some confusion around the vaccine’s potential impact on fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding means that some women are unsure whether to have it when the opportunity arises, and many are declining to have it at all.
A poll of 55,000 Brits carried out by Find Out Now in December 2020 found that 18-34-year-old women are the group most likely to say they would refuse a vaccine when offered, with 27 percent claiming they would decline compared to 18.3 percent of those surveyed across all age groups.
Some of the confusion stems from initial guidance released in December, stating that pregnant and breastfeeding women shouldn’t have the vaccination as no research had been carried out to learn what impact it could have. However, the advice has since changed, unsurprisingly leaving young women with a lot of questions. Here’s what you need to know…
Can the COVID-19 vaccines impact fertility?
There is currently no link between the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility. In a statement on this topic, Dr Edward Morris, President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, explained: “We want to reassure women that there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility. Claims of any effect of COVID-19 vaccination on fertility are speculative and not supported by any data.
“There is no biologically plausible mechanism by which current vaccines would cause any impact on women’s fertility. Evidence has not been presented that women who have been vaccinated have gone on to have fertility problems.”
Is it safe to have the COVID-19 vaccines while pregnant?
At the beginning of the vaccine rollout, the UK government, via the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), advised that anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding should not have the vaccine. This was because clinical trials of the vaccines on pregnant women have not been carried out.
However, the advice has since changed for people who are considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, who are now advised to discuss the possibility of vaccination with their doctor as they could be at more risk of serious illness, should they contract the virus. Pregnant frontline health or social care workers can also discuss being vaccinated as they may be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
A statement from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said of the decision: “We support this risk-based approach that means clinically vulnerable pregnant women and breastfeeding women will now have access to the COVID-19 vaccination until data exists to support routine vaccination in pregnancy.”
Can I have the vaccine while trying to conceive?
According to the NHS: “You do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.”
However, if you become pregnant after having your first dose, the official advice is that you should delay your second dose until you have given birth, unless you are considered high risk.
Is it safe to have the COVID-19 vaccines while breastfeeding?
According to government advice, yes it is. While there isn’t any data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in breastfeeding or on the breastfed infant, they are not thought to be a risk to the child, and the benefits of breastfeeding are well known.
The JCVI has now recommended that the vaccine can be received whilst breastfeeding, in line with recommendations in the USA and from the World Health Organisation.