The COVID vaccine is here: Should IVF patients get vaccinated? (Updated: 11/05/2021)

by Ermina Konstantinidou, last updated 11 May 2021,

6 min read

After almost one tiring year of battling with the pandemic, the hope of defeating this invisible enemy is near, as the first vaccines have been released for quite some time now. 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 general consensus these days seems to be that women planning to conceive or already pregnant should be vaccinated against Covid-19, as potential complications if SARS – CoV – 2 is contracted during pregnancy may be significant and the benefit of vaccination outweighs the risk of potential side effects.

Most of the available data are based on observations following vaccinations with the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), since they were released first. This is the reason many authorities seem to favor the specific types of vaccines.

The other types of vaccines will get official approval in the coming weeks, as more data become available about the other types of the vaccines.

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.
    One needs to highlight that ESHRE data are a bit outdated since the review was made in January 2021.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. Follow all safety guidelines for COVID and postpone vaccination until after pregnancy
  2. Proceed with vaccination as soon as possible while continuing to follow the already imposed safety guidelines.

Again, the decision 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:

A more recent review of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April 2021 states that women that are pregnant belong to the population eligible to receive the vaccine. Receiving the vaccine for each individual is a personal choice.

The above is due to the fact that pregnant women are more susceptive to go through severe COVID infection they should be vaccinated.

Despite CDC’s recommendations performing the vaccine is still a personal choice and women who are planning to get pregnant, are pregnant or lactating need to consider the following before finalizing their decision:

  • Chances of exposure to the virus
  • Health risk of a COVID-19 infection to the woman and the fetus, meaning the chances of developing severe illness
  • The known benefits of vaccination
  • The limited but consistently growing evidence of vaccination during pregnancy.
  • Vaccination might pass antibodies from the vaccinated mother to the fetus (mostly during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy) or to the breastfeeding baby.

Regarding people that are trying to conceive, CDC states that there is no need to postpone vaccination as there are no evidence of the vaccine causing fertility issues. Also, there is no need to avid pregnancy after being vaccinated. The above are the reasons why routine pregnancy testing is not recommended before proceeding with vaccination.

Patients who decide to proceed with the vaccination should still follow the imposed guidelines for COVID prevention.

Vaccine recommendations from CDC are the following:

*Always consult with your doctor before vaccination so that they can guide you on the best option for you.

Keep in mind that CDC is referring only to the vaccines available to the USA population.

The CDC recommends individuals that get vaccinated to enroll in v-safe which is a smartphone based too that provides personalized health check ins after receiving the vaccine. Pregnant women can enroll on the v-safe pregnancy registry.

What JCVI (UK) and RCOG says:

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), published in April and May 2021 respectively, both agree that pregnant women are at higher risk of developing severe, hence women that are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or breastfeeding should be offered the vaccine.

Basically, there is a unanimous agreement with the CDC’s views and guidelines for the above-mentioned population when it comes to receiving the vaccine and following the current national guidance on safety measures for COVID-19.

Vaccine recommendations from JCVI:

  • It is preferable for pregnant women to be administered mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna)
  • There is no evidence to suggest that other vaccines are unsafe however more research is recommended.
  • It is preferable for populations under the age of 30 to be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
    *Always consult with your doctor before vaccination so that they can guide you on the best option for you.

What ACOG says:

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) (April 2021) has a similar approach to JCVI and CDC stating that pregnant women should have access to the vaccines. Vaccination should also not be withheld form lactating women or individuals planning a pregnancy.

What NACI (Canada) says:

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) (May 2021) of Canada does not suggest routine vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding until further clinical data becomes 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 a 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.

Ermina Konstantinidou

Ermina Konstantinidou, BSc

Ermina is a Midwife and an International Patient Coordinator at Newlife IVF Greece.

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