Fertility And The COVID-19 Vaccine With Dr. Surrey

Widely considered one of the top fertility experts in the field, Dr. Mark Surrey has been in practice for over 25 years. He is a board-certified reproductive and endoscopic surgeon and serves as a clinical professor in the Department of OBGYN at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. He was elected President of the American Laparoscopy Society & Pacific Coast Reproductive Society and is a Clinical Director of Fellowship Training for UCLA & Cedars Sinai Reproductive Endocrinology. Also a founding member of The Society of Reproductive Surgeons. Dr. Surrey is a yearly recipient of the leading research contributions for ASRM. Furthermore, he is the associate director at the Southern California Reproductive Center, a clinic he co-founded. Haute MD sits down with Dr. Mark Surrey to discuss common concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine in regards to one's fertility.

Dr. SurreyPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Haute MD: What fertility related concerns did the rumor about the vaccine bring up?

The rumor falsely claims that the COVID-19 spike protein of the Pfizer vaccine causes an immune response, which supposedly trains the body to attack its own syncytin-1, a protein in the placenta and this could lead to infertility in women. This claim, however, is false and has been debunked by countless experts. The spike protein on the COVID-19 virus and the placenta protein only have very little in common, certainly not enough for your own immune system to attack the placenta.

Haute MD: Should women who are trying to conceive be concerned about getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

Naturally, the question about a vaccine’s safety, especially one that is new on the market and went through an expedited approval process is on everyone’s mind. Especially with rumors that circled online about this particular vaccination affecting fertility. But there is no evidence backing this claim and in my opinion, women trying to conceive should not be concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine. There are no known, side effects to expecting couples that we know of. People do experience pain at the injection site, fever, headaches, joint or muscle pains, and tiredness for a day or two, but these are normal side effects and common responses to the regular flu shots as well.

Haute MD: Are there potential side effects of the vaccine for men or women when it comes to their reproductive abilities?

When it comes to fertility and the effects of the vaccine on reproductive abilities, there seem to be no concerns for women or men alike. Of course, this is a relatively new and unknown technology and has only been performed on a relatively small percentage of the population. It, therefore, is possible that at some point in the future we might learn about potential side effects on people’s fertility, but from a scientific perspective, that seems to be very unlikely. And while I am not alarmed about any potential side-effects, we of course will be monitoring our patients closely as time progresses.

COVID VaccinePhoto Credit: ShutterstockHaute MD: What are things couples can do to be proactive in monitoring the side-effects of this vaccine?

Since we don’t know of any side effects it is difficult to be proactive. I recommend my patients to undergo a doctor’s exam and seek advice prior to taking the vaccine and to contact their physician in case anything feels or seems out of the ordinary.

Haute MD: Do you advise your patients to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

I definitely recommend vaccines to my patients. Not everyone is open to getting vaccinated and I have to respect that, but I certainly advise it, as I trust in their effectiveness like the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. It is the main vaccine currently rolled out in the United States and has an efficacy of 90%. Meaning in perfect lab conditions and during a clinical trial, there were 90% of cases of COVID infections compared to the group that received a placebo. Its effectiveness, which refers to how it performs in “the real world” will only become known as time progresses and more people receive the vaccination. But in comparison to the average annual flu shot, which has an effectiveness of 40-60% the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be much higher.

Some initial research suggests that the Coronavirus (not the vaccine) may affect a man’s sperm quality. And while more research is needed, it is worth considering that contracting the virus might contribute to increased difficulties when a couple is trying to conceive.

Haute MD: Do any vaccinations affect fertility?

No. There is no evidence that any other types of vaccine impact fertility. Since newborns and expecting and new mothers are often more susceptible to illnesses, we often recommend women who are trying to conceive or are currently pregnant to consider getting vaccinated.