FAQ: COVID-19 Vaccines

March 18, 2021   Practice News & Events

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Here are the answers to your most frequently asked questions

As the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process continues, our patients, including pregnant, postpartum, and menopausal women, have asked a variety of insightful questions. We aim to be a trusted source of information for our patients and our beloved community and thought it would be helpful to share the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. We follow the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) very closely and align with its recommendations.

 

Does the vaccine have the actual virus in it?

No, it does not give you the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two of the most prominently used COVID-19 vaccines in the United States today, made by Moderna and Pfizer, are in a new category of mRNA vaccines. Traditional vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies that triggers an immune response. Instead, mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus ever enters our bodies.

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a more traditional vaccine that requires just a single dose. (Update: as of 4/13, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on hold due to reports of blood clots.) It modifies an existing adenovirus and doesn’t have the ability to reproduce in the human body, meaning it also can’t cause COVID-19 or any other illnesses. This article gives a helpful synopsis.

 

Has the vaccine been properly researched? It usually takes years for a vaccine to be safe for public use.

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time. However, that does not mean that the process wasn’t thorough. There are factors that escalated the turnaround time of the vaccine development:

  • Since the COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis, scientists, governments, and industry partners around the world have willingly shared their knowledge to help expedite the process.
  • Additional government funding has been provided to speed up vaccine development.
  • Meetings to review the in-depth studies were scheduled at record speed.
  • New tools and systems were created to help with ongoing safety checks that will continue throughout the vaccine process.

You can find out more about the journey of a vaccine in this article by ACOG. Dr. Shana Miles explains, “So rest assured: Any vaccine that you are offered has gone through a great amount of testing and oversight. The COVID-19 vaccines are no exception.”

 

What should I do if I’m pregnant and think I have COVID-19?

If you think you may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and have a fever or cough, call your OB/GYN. Please call 911 or go to the hospital right away if you’re experiencing the following emergency symptoms:

  • Having a difficult time breathing or experiencing shortness of breath (more than what has been considered normal during pregnancy)
  • Ongoing pain or pressure in the chest
  • Sudden confusion
  • Being unable to respond to others
  • Blue lips or face

 

Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am trying to get pregnant?

If you are planning to expand your family or trying to get pregnant, you can safely get a COVID-19 vaccine. You do not need to delay getting pregnant after you receive the vaccine either. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. If you find out you are pregnant after you have the first dose, you should still get the second dose.

 

Will the vaccine affect fertility?

The mRNA vaccine trials did not include pregnant or breastfeeding women, however, when studied during animal tests, the mRNA vaccines did not affect fertility or cause any problems with pregnancy. Other vaccines are generally safe for use in pregnancy, and many are recommended. We have no reason to think the vaccine would affect egg supply. According to Harvard Health Publishing at Harvard Medical School, the immunity that a pregnant individual generates from vaccination can cross the placenta, and may help keep the baby safe from COVID-19 after birth.

 

Should breastfeeding women get the vaccine?

Yes, Garrison Women’s Health and ACOG recommend that breastfeeding women get a COVID-19 vaccine. There is no need to stop breastfeeding once you get a vaccine.

 

Will breastfeeding pass immunity on to the baby?

If you are vaccinated during late pregnancy, it is likely that the antibodies your body produces in response to the vaccine will be passed to the fetus through the placenta and may provide some protection against COVID-19, the same way a flu vaccine can help protect your baby against the flu. Because of the biology of the COVID-19 vaccine, we do not believe that breastfeeding will provide any antibody protection to the baby. However, we expect to obtain additional clarity on this topic as more data is received.

 

Should I reschedule my mammogram if I recently had the vaccine?

When getting a mammogram right after the COVID-19 vaccine, it is possible for the screening to present lymphadenopathy (enlargement of the lymph nodes). If possible, without delaying care, we encourage our patients to schedule screening exams (including mammograms and MRIs) prior to the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, or a minimum of four weeks following the second dose. If the patient’s lymphadenopathy is caused by the vaccine, it will likely have subsided by then.

Beyond the immediate disease risks, there’s a lot we don’t know about how COVID-19 may affect your body in the long run. The theoretical concerns about the vaccine do not outweigh the known benefits of vaccination.

As a reminder, you are in charge of your own health. We are providing recommendations to help you with informed decision-making and do encourage our patients to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. It’s important to note that recommendations will continue to evolve as more data is obtained. At Garrison, we will continue to update our patients and community on the latest findings, in accordance with ACOG’s recommendations. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Janet Perkins, MD

Authored by Dr. Janet Perkins

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