The last year has presented a whirlwind of uncertainty, and for those who are pregnant and/or planning to get pregnant, the flurry of questions around whether or not it is safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine is no different. To settle some concern, consider this - the benefits of being vaccinated are far greater than the risk of becoming infected while pregnant.
A little bit of background on how the mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) vaccine works:
- The vaccine itself is NOT COVID-19 – it is genetic information called mRNA that mimics how the virus works.
- Once the mRNA is injected into your muscle, your cells produce a spike protein, which is a small part of the virus.
- When the spike protein is released from the cells, your immune system recognizes it as foreign and starts your immune response.
- Since the mRNA is broken down quickly it does not enter your cells’ nucleus to affect your DNA and it is unlikely to reach and cross the placenta, which should keep your baby safe.
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a traditional vaccine similar to the tetanus pertussis diphtheria (Tdap) and flu vaccines, which are commonly administered in pregnancy with a known safety profile.
Many might wonder why your body responds to the vaccine with common side effects that mirror the symptoms of COVID-19. The reason for this is the immune system attacks the spike protein, causing side effect symptoms such as body aches and fever.
The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) under their emergency use authorization. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine strongly recommend that those who are pregnant have access to the vaccine.
Pregnancy is a risk factor for severe illness because pregnant women are more likely to end up in intensive care, on a ventilator or can die from COVID-19. If you are infected during pregnancy, there is an increased risk of preterm birth and the many complications associated with prematurity.
Overall, the benefits of being vaccinated are far greater than the risk of becoming infected while pregnant. Therefore, I advise you to discuss this with your healthcare provider for shared decision-making. Together, discuss these benefits compared to any risk it might pose based on your individual circumstances. In the meantime, hang in there moms, expecting mothers and everyone who is planning for motherhood. You are already protecting your babies by doing the research necessary to keep them safe.
About the Author
Board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and in maternal-fetal medicine by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Lissa Francois joined Valley Children’s as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in July 2016. Her area of special interest is hypertensive disorders, diabetes, abnormal placentation, multiple gestation and vascular disorders.