Now that the Covid-19 vaccine is being rolled out for children ages five to 11 in the United States, parents are asking their paediatricians many questions.
One of the most common misconceptions – which doctors heard when teens became eligible as well – has to do with the effect the vaccine might have on future fertility.
It’s a myth, says Dr Elizabeth Knapp, a paediatrician with Austin Regional Clinic, Texas.
“Of course, for any new medicine, any new vaccine, we have questions,” she says.
“Could there be side effects? That’s a very rational thought.”
Dr Knapp explains that the building blocks of mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccines such as the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 shot for kids are not new.
She also pointed out that the vaccines affect the immune system, not the reproductive system.
“They are two different parts of our body that are not interrelated,” she says.
This vaccine has not been shown to affect fertility in adults, both those enrolled in the clinical trials and those who have received the vaccine since last December.
Texas Fertility Center reproductive endocrinologist Dr Lisa Hansard says even her adult patients who are actively trying to get pregnant should get the vaccine.
She says understanding the science of the vaccine is important.
It breaks down rapidly at the injection site to cause the antibody response, she explains.
“Producing antibodies has never been shown to impact current or future pregnancies,” she says.
“It’s the science of the mRNA vaccine. There’s not a physiological reason that (infertility) risk would exist,” she points out.
The only vaccines not recommended for people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant are live ones such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Those vaccines are given either a month before someone tries to get pregnant or after a pregnancy has ended.
Because the Covid-19 vaccine is not a live virus, it’s fine, and even encouraged, for people trying to get pregnant or already pregnant.
Pregnancy and the first few weeks after having a baby put people at an elevated risk of severe Covid-19.
Doctors do worry about fertility and fevers in men, and fever causing neural tubal defects in the first trimester of pregnancy.
A fever could reduce a man’s fertility temporarily for about three months, but then it should return to normal.
If pregnant women are taking 400mcg of folic acid daily, then the neural tubal defects can be avoided even if they have a fever.
A fever could happen if a person becomes ill with Covid-19 or as a less common side effect of the vaccine.
With the vaccine, Dr Hansard says, you can prepare for that and take paracetamol in the first 24 to 48 hours after receiving the vaccine to reduce your chances of getting a fever.
She also hears from people about social media posts involving miscarriages and the Covid-19 vaccine.
The truth is that one-third of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage, she says.
It’s quite possible that someone could coincidentally get a vaccine and also miscarry.
In the data of people in the vaccine test group, there wasn’t an increased risk of miscarriage for those who received the vaccine, compared with those who got the placebo.
Another study since the vaccine was released hasn’t shown an increase either, Dr Hansard says.
For parents who might be taking a “wait and see” approach to the vaccine, Dr Knapp says: “This is a public health emergency. We need to keep our neighbours in mind.”
When we are all vaccinated, we can go back to having a more normal life, including at school, she says.
Kids who get vaccinated now could be having Christmas with their grandparents and other relatives, and not risk giving them the virus.
Parents who have questions about the vaccine should be talking to their family doctor or paediatrician.
“They are happy to talk to you about your individual risk,” Dr Knapp says. – By Nicole Villalpando/Austin American-Statesman/Tribune News Service