AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ashley Beveridge had her reservations about getting a coronavirus vaccine.
She started talking to doctors about the impact after getting engaged in October and thinking about starting a family.
“Could this affect fertility or, you know, if not fertility then just maybe any birth defects in my future children,” Beveridge wondered.
After a lot of research, the mental health counselor explained she decided to get vaccinated in March.
She said she works with clients who are considered high risk and ultimately wanted to make sure she did everything to keep them safe.
“I think at some point, I started to worry more about what not getting the vaccine could do versus actually getting the vaccine,” Beveridge said.
Hesitancy impact on herd immunity
Dr. John Thoppil with River Place OB/GYN in Austin is hearing similar concerns about fertility from patients who are thinking about getting vaccinated.
“I want to reassure everybody, there’s no evidence whatsoever. All the major medical societies, including the Society for Fertility, you know, have come out and said, there’s no evidence to support that there’s fertility associated with the vaccines,” explained Thoppil, who is also the President of Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
He said at least 70% of people need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, and women play a big role in getting there. He’s encouraging his patients to get vaccinated.
“We have now over 30,000 women that have enrolled between Pfizer and Moderna, and the safety seems to be completely what we expected, which is very low risk, no different than the non-vaccinated population in terms of pregnancy complications,” Thoppil explained.
Passing protection to babies
A recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology out of the Boston area showed pregnant and breastfeeding women who got vaccines had a robust immune response similar to those who were not pregnant.
The research also found antibodies in umbilical cord blood and breast milk.
“So that tells us that we can be passing some of this protection to our babies, for moms who are vaccinated during their pregnancy, which is really exciting,” explained Dr. Madeline Kaye, an OB-GYN at Renaissance Women’s Group in Pflugerville.
The study included 131 women who had been vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — 84 were pregnant, 31 lactating and 16 were not pregnant.
According to the research, “this study provides the first data from a large cohort on maternal antibody generation in response to COVID-19 vaccination.”
Kaye said it’s not clear how long the immunity lasts, but those studies are in the works.
She’s also recommending the vaccine especially since she said pregnant women are at higher risk of getting sicker from the virus and ending up in the ICU.
She was vaccinated during her second trimester when the vaccines were rolling out statewide.
“Being a health care worker, I felt even in the early stages, that the the benefits outweighed the potential risks. And as we’ve learned more, I just feel more comfortable with my decision,” Kaye said. “And now there’s a possibility that I can help protect my baby by having done so as well.”
You can help with future studies
She’s now part of two studies including the CDC’s V-safe registry, which looks into impacts during pregnancy.
“They released preliminary data pretty recently, and it all looked very promising. They looked at a number of different adverse events, potentially in pregnancy, from miscarriage rate, stillbirth, preeclampsia, diabetes, and they didn’t find any significant difference,” Kaye said.
In fact, she explained the data showed the miscarriage rate in the vaccinated group was actually lower than the unvaccinated group.
Kaye encourages other pregnant women to take part in the V-safe study so more information can be gathered and analyzed.
The data is encouraging for Beveridge, who lives in Miami. Her younger sister attends the University of Texas at Austin, and she wants to be able to also protect her from the virus while visiting.
She said five days after getting her first Pfizer dose, she ended up getting COVID-19, but her symptoms were mild.
Beveridge said she was surprised given the measures she’s taken to not be exposed in the last year.
“I think I feel safer now, knowing what I know from my doctors, and knowing that it was probably just the best choice based off of the information that we have right now,” Beveridge explained.
KXAN investigative intern Gabriella Ouellette contributed to this report.