After almost one tiring year of battling with the pandemic, hope of defeating this invisible enemy is near, as the first vaccines have been released. Healthcare professionals are among the first in line to be offered the vaccine. However, the most important question is:
Should women undergoing IVF treatment be vaccinated?
The answer to the above question varies. Vaccination programs exclude all women trying to achieve a pregnancy, being pregnant, or breastfeeding, and the reason for this is fairly simple as there is no significant evidence yet that guarantees the vaccine’s safety to the above-mentioned populations.
However, since so far evidence does not raise any concerns regarding the vaccine’s safety in pregnancy, the general consensus on its suitability to be performed in the above-mentioned population groups varies.
What ESHRE says:
The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) states that:
- For women and men attempting conception, due to the limiting data on the possible effect of the vaccine on a future pregnancy, ESHRE cannot make any recommendations on with the vaccine should be performed. Vaccination could be considered in women that the benefits could outweigh any potential risks.
- Women that have received the vaccine it is advisable to postpone conception to allow time for immunization.
- For pregnant women vaccination should be performed after evaluating the risk and the benefits of performing the vaccine.
Moreover in a joint IFFS (International Federation of Fertility Societies and ESHRE statement, it is stated that the women that are planning to conceive have different options to women that are already pregnant. In more detail:
• Women that are planning to conceive:
- Either postpone pregnancy until effective measures to reduce the risk of contracting the virus have been implemented, such as lower infection rates or vaccination availability.
- To not postpone conception, follow the safety guidelines and seek vaccination.
The first option, understandably, may not be the optimal solution for women of order reproductive age or shorter reproductive horizon. On the other hand, the second option is suggested in cases where the benefits of vaccination would outweigh any potential risks.
• Women that are pregnant:
- Follow all safety guidelines for COVID and postpone vaccination until after pregnancy
- Proceed with vaccination as soon as possible while continuing to follow the already imposed safety guidelines.
Again, the discussion to proceed with the vaccination should be made after evaluation of each individual case and confirmation that this would be the most beneficial route.
What CDC says:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that women that are pregnant and lactating belong to the population eligible to receive the vaccine. Receiving the vaccine for each individual is a personal choice.
What women who are planning to get pregnant, are pregnant or lactating need to consider before finalizing their decision:
- Chances of exposure to the virus
- Health risk of a COVID-19 infection to the woman and the fetus.
- Vaccines’ potential risks
Patients who decide to proceed with the vaccination should still follow the imposed guidelines for COVID prevention.
What JCVI (UK) and RCOG say:
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) state that even though there are no known associated risks to the already approved vaccines, routine vaccination should be avoided during pregnancy. Vaccination should be considered in patients that belong in high-risk groups and situations where the benefits of the vaccine outweigh any potential risks.
Women in preparation for pregnancy do not need to avoid pregnancy following vaccination.
JCVI suggest that lactating women can be offered vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.
What ACOG says:
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has a similar approach to JCVI. Their recommendation is for women planning a pregnancy, pregnant women, and women that meet the ACIP criteria for vaccination to not be withheld from it.
What NACI (Canada) says:
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) of Canada does not suggest routine vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding until further clinical data become available unless risk assessment deems that the benefits outweigh the potential risks for the individual and the infant.
If a pregnancy is achieved during the vaccination series then completion should not be delayed unless there are risk factors suggesting otherwise.
What the NPHO (Greece) says:
Due to the lack of clinical evidence, the National Public Health Organization of Greece (available information in Greek) follows ESHRE’s approach and states that vaccinations on women that planning to achieve a pregnancy, are pregnant or lactating, could be vaccinated should they belong in high-risk populations.
What should you do?
Although all the above information may seem confusing and daunting, the best approach is to follow your home-country’s guidelines along with your doctor’s recommendations.
As a clinic, we will be following an individualized approach always taking into consideration your medical history and current imposed guidelines. As always, we will try our best to be at your side and ensure that you will be able to achieve your dream safely.
For more questions please do not hesitate to contact our medical team, here.