COVID vaccine and fertility

By Angela Bunn
Gynii Me

You may have seen in the news that the UK has started rolling out two approved vaccines against COVID-19. They are known as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines. The UK government plans to vaccinate 15 million people in “high-priority” groups, by mid-February, 2021. The current list of priority groups does not include those who are pregnant or breastfeeding (although they may be included due to health reasons or if they work in health or social care). So, you may be wondering if you should avoid the vaccines if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or even trying to get pregnant. 

*We’ll keep the information on this page updated as the situation unfolds and more information becomes available.

This article was last updated on: 22nd February, 2021. 

COVID vaccine and fertility

What is the official advice?

Trying to Conceive ("TTC")
The good news is that there’s no need to avoid the vaccine if you are TTC. Experts believe the vaccine will not have any effect on future fertility. In fact, some volunteers who received the vaccine during earlier clinical trials have since reported becoming pregnant. In fact, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) encourages those who are eligible to receive the vaccine before beginning any kind of assisted reproduction to help you stay healthy during any future pregnancies. However, since vaccines work by inducing an immune response, ESHRE recommends both men and women wait “a few days” to start any kind of assisted reproduction after receiving the first dose of the vaccine, just so your body has enough time to recover from temporary side effects.

Pregnant or Breastfeeding
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and are in one of the COVID-19 priority groups (read more about priority groups here, the advice is to talk to a healthcare provider, such as your GP, before deciding whether to receive the vaccine. 

For some pregnant or breastfeeding women who are at very high risk due to underlying conditions or are working in healthcare, the benefits of having the vaccine may outweigh the risks. 

If you have been told that you are eligible for the vaccine and are planning to receive the vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that you receive it at your maternity unit, or inform your maternity unit once you are vaccinated, so you and your baby can be monitored by the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS)/UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS) vaccine registry. 

Are the COVID-19 vaccines generally considered safe?

To release the COVID-19 vaccines at unprecedented speed, the UK regulator for new medicines, The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) made it a top priority to review their trial data and complete the approval process. This means that the MHRA are satisfied that both vaccines have passed their checks and are safe and effective for use. Read more about COVID-19 vaccine safety here

You may have read or heard of some cases of people in the UK needing to have treatment after suffering an allergic reaction to the vaccine (all of whom are well again after treatment). As with any vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccines contain ingredients that a small number of people may be allergic to, so the MHRA recommend that if you have a history of significant allergies you should avoid the vaccine.

The trial studies have shown that the side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are similar to those of other vaccines, such as for flu, measles and polio. This means some people will experience symptoms such as tiredness, muscle pain, low fever and headache after having their COVID-19 vaccine.

The safety data for both the vaccines come from a large number of vaccinated volunteers, including around 40,000 people for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and around 24,000 people for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Top vaccine expert Dr. Ruth Karron has stated that vaccine trials normally recruit between 3,000 and 6,000 volunteers. Using much larger numbers of the population for the trials should mean that, in comparison, the MHRA will have had the opportunity to catch much rarer side-effects than with normal vaccine trials.

Will having the COVID-19 vaccine affect the safety of fertility treatment?
There is no official vaccine guidance for those planning on or currently having fertility treatment, and we recommend you speak to your clinic about having the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The following websites contain more information:

  • The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website (click here) 
  • The Human Fertility and Embryology Association website (click here)
  • Public Health England website (click here)

Read our other articles about COVID-19:

The information and guidance in this article is based on what experts know about the COVID-19 virus and vaccines so far. More evidence is being collected over time and our guidance will be updated when this is available.

Gynii Me takes care to provide access to accurate and reliable information to help you wherever you are on your fertility journey. Please let us know if you think any content on this site is factually incorrect. 

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