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Fertility Patients Express Concern Over COVID-19 Vaccines

An interview on new survey data suggesting a majority of fertility and pregnant patients are not interested in the currently available vaccines.

A new study showed vaccine hesitancy may be highly prevalent among patients undergoing fertility treatment.

In data from a survey-based assessment conducted by the Columbia University Fertility Center and published in Fertility & Sterility Dialogue, investigators reported that 58% of 284 patients to receive fertility treatment in the last year stated they would either not receive currently available coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines, or were unsure.

Though the rate is fairly similar to the current general population’s feelings on COVID-19 vaccines, perception was far worse among those further along the fertility care process.

Just 17.3% of patients who were either pregnant or planning to conceive within the next month said they would get the vaccine. Another 90% of patients on fertility treatment said they would not change their treatment plan due vaccination.

In an interview with Contagion®, study coauthor Eric Forman, MD, discussed the survey’s findings, and helped to rationalize the concerns of his patients—particularly those already pregnant.

“Pregnant women were not included in the trials to develop vaccines,” Forman said. “We don’t have a lot of data. We know a lot of vaccines are not safe in pregnancy, and are not recommended in pregnancy.”

Adversely, Forman also noted the risk pregnant women may face in viral infection, given they’re considered immunosuppressed. Though understanding of how COVID-19 affects pregnant women is still not perfected, the lack of representation in vaccine trials negates rationale for vaccination.

“We have a high-risk population and they know less than the general population about safety,” he explained.

Forman also touched on other elements influencing fertility and pregnant patients’ current vaccine concerns, including unfounded social media rumors, and the unknowns of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines.