How does the vaccine work? Can it cause genetic changes in me or my baby?
The unique mechanisms for these vaccines prevent them from altering DNA and causing genetic changes going forward. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are MRNA vaccines. They take the messenger RNA of the spike protein from the surface of the Covid-19 virus and they place it in a lipid nanoparticle. This is injected in your muscle and taken up by the cells there. It never enters the nucleus which is the cells genetic information center. It uses the cells protein processing centers to transcribe the MRNA into the spike protein which is then picked up by the immune system to create antibodies against this protein.
The Janssen vaccine is an adenovirus vector. It uses a genetically altered adenovirus vector to introduce the spike protein. It does enter the cell’s nucleus to be transcribed but it cannot incorporate itself into our DNA because it doesn’t have the necessary enzymatic machinery.
In short none of these vaccines contain live virus and none of them are capable of causing genetic changes in our bodies after we receive it.
Is the vaccine safe to receive while pregnant?
The vaccine does not utilize live virus. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine issued a position statement in July 2021 that ALL pregnant and lactating individuals should receive the vaccine. Furthermore, Covid 19 antibodies have been detected in the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants likely conferring passive protection against Covid 19 after birth.
Can the vaccine cause infertility?
Concerns were brought forward that the Sars CoV 2 spike protein shares a similar genetic sequence with a protein called Syncytin-1. This is a protein expressed on the placenta of mammals. The concern was that creating an immune response to the spike protein would also create an immune response to this placental protein and cause infertility as a result. This is unfounded. It is important to understand that many proteins share small stretches of the same genetic code but not enough to make them a match. Developmental and reproductive toxicity trials performed on animals such as rats and rabbits did not demonstrate any disruption in rates of conception, pregnancy loss, or subsequent fetal development. Furthermore, unintended pregnancies were discovered during the initial clinical trials with all three vaccines debunking the notion that women will be unable to conceive. Lastly, as of July 2021, over 139, 000 pregnant women have received one of the vaccine series and 5100 were followed longitudinally by the V-Safe Covid-19 vaccine pregnancy registry. They have analyzed their available data and compared outcomes between pregnant patients that have been vaccinated and their unvaccinated cohorts and determined that there is no evidence of increased adverse pregnancy outcomes including gestational
diabetes, preeclampsia, eclampsia, fetal growth restriction, preterm birth, miscarriage, congenital anomalies or fetal demise.
Can the vaccine affect my menstrual cycle?
There have been multiple anecdotal reports that the Covid 19 vaccine has caused menstrual cycle changes- ranging anywhere from irregularity to increased duration or frequency or volume and even pain or PMS symptoms. There have been no studies yet about the vaccine and this effect and this was not a monitored metric during any of the clinical trials. BUT there has been a small handful of studies performed regarding the effects of the Covid 19 virus and pandemic in general and menses. Unfortunately, not all these studies were strong because of study size. Some of them were also limited by research bias and other confounding factors.
Some say our menstrual cycle is another vital sign and an indication of our general health and well being. There are so many things that can affect our menstrual cycles in general. There needs to be more research into this topic. But at this point it is highly unlikely these changes will last longer than 1-2 cycles or be clinically detrimental to our health.
Is it safe to use the vaccine while I breast feed?
The Academy of Breast-feeding Medicine released their last statement in December of 2020 encouraging lactating mothers to consider vaccination. The vaccine is received and processed by our muscular cells, and it is unlikely that the lipid nanoparticle will reach our bloodstream and our breast tissue before it is completely degraded. Furthermore, if the nanoparticle or MRNA did enter milk, it would be digested by the infant and be unlikely to have any biologic effects. They go on to say further that while risk is unlikely, benefit has been demonstrated. Antibodies created by the vaccine can passively transfer into milk. The first antibodies we form, IgA antibodies, are detectable in milk within 5-7 days post vaccine and may therefore provide infants with passive protection from Covid 19.