It is originally published In the 19th
Krissy considers himself a person who is “very pro-vaxx”. With her 3-year-old daughter, she followed the vaccination program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was “excited” to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as she is eligible.
Krissy, 37, who lives in the Atlanta area and asked her last name to be deprived of privacy, said she had no side effects after her first Modern dose. But two days after her second dose she had her period – and after that period ended, she got another eight days later. This cycle continued for a few weeks, at which point she went to her gynecologist for advice. After a course of oral progesterone fails to restart the regular menstrual cycle, she returned to her doctor, who told her she seemed to have stopped ovulating.
She hadn’t planned on having more children, but now she’s worried that the choice will be made for her. Krissy is worried that the vaccination will be to blame, and what it could mean for her daughter’s fertility should be vaccinated when she is eligible in the coming months.
“I want her to be safe and healthy, but I don’t know what the long-term ramifications are,” Krissy said.
Research published in late June in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility concluded definitively that the COVID vaccine does not cause sterility. Research has also determined that nothing in the vaccine impacts embryo implantation or pregnancy development.
In Dr. Hina Talib, a pediatrician, specialist in medicine for adolescents and spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, emphasized that there is “no biological mechanism for future fertility to be influenced by the COVID vaccine or any other vaccine to date, which should be reassuring given the long history of world populations with vaccinations.”
“I think that’s the only thing I hear most commonly as a question from parents: Does this have an impact on their puberty, their sexual development, their future fertility?” Talib said about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We live in strange times where there is so much misinformation that spreads so quickly and preys on the fears of parents. Parents take over and become the intermediaries of these national movements of a political nature. ”
But Talib said she understands where parents like Krissy come from.
“It’s been a very long 16 months, especially for parents of children who have really felt the effects of social isolation and disruption in their lives. Today, parents are concerned about the health and well-being of their children in a unique way at all times, “she said. This news, she added,” can feel like a burden over a year. which was already so different. ”
As well as Jennifer Reich, professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Denver and author of “Calling Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines” explained, vaccination hesitation is not new. Even before COVID, 25 to 30 percent of American parents had had their children skip vaccines, cut out vaccines, come up with their own vaccination programs, or engage in some – but not all – vaccines. In her research, Reich heard from parents who felt that, in the end, they were better qualified to determine the risks and benefits.
“As parents, they feel like experts on their children,” Reich told The 19th. “And that was pre-COVID.”
He pointed out that in the last three decades, vaccines have become increasingly seen as an individual, consumer decision and not a public health decision.
“We download apps and count calories and we count steps and undergo genetic testing for any potential underlying risk,” Reich said. “They’re not public health strategies, though. Even our public health agencies focus their messaging on personal responsibility, telling people, ‘don’t smoke’ and ‘go for a walk.’ is that you can personally manage the disease – which is scientifically false. ”
Most diseases, he said, result from environmental or genetic factors, not from choices that are “personally malleable.” But at this particular moment, what it means to be a parent – and, more specifically, a “good mother” – is often defined by the perception that you are making an informed decision about your own child, and your only child.
Talib picked up the feeling.
“People look at vaccination rates in their area, their school – but these numbers don’t take into account all the children. Maybe they take into account your children or certain children, but you have to watch out for those who speak. only for their children and remind them that their health and the privilege of vaccination are what allow them to make statements about what other families should do with regard to this vaccine ”.
Datu u low mortality and hospitalization rates for children who get COVID, “it’s not completely irrational to say you don’t want to vaccinate your child because they’re young and at risk of infection,” Reich said. The COVID vaccine is the first new vaccine approved in about 15 years – the Gardasil vaccine for HPV was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006, before many of today’s parents had children – which which means that parents may have questions about what it means to reasonably evaluate this choice.
The question of how COVID vaccination can influence the fertility of their children is a perfect distillation of this dynamic. As Reich explains, at the beginning of the initial release period of the COVID vaccine, there was an unfounded theory circulating on the Internet that the genetic code for the COVID vaccine was similar to that used in placental development during pregnancy. . There was concern among proponents of this theory that the vaccine could disrupt a placenta’s ability to successfully cultivate a full-term fetus. Reich said that when he contacted scientists working in perinatal and reproductive health on this claim, they explained that because there are only so many letter combinations available in discussion of genetic sequences, the sequence for vaccine and for placental development it seems superficially similar, but that any superposition ends here.
“It’s like me thinking I know I can call you because I know you have a‘ 7 ’in your phone number,” Reich said.
Concerns about the future fertility of children persist, however. Talib says she hears about fertility from mothers more often, especially when it comes to daughters – which she says isn’t surprising.
“Mothers don’t need to do the same mental gymnastics on that unfortunate piece of misinformation,” about COVID and placental disturbance, “because a lot of them feel already made to try to have a family. But with their children, they think that their fertility is in front of them, not behind them ”.
Talib noted that there have been “anecdotal reports of fluctuating periods after receiving the COVID vaccine,” but notes that whenever there is stress on the body – including but not limited to weight changes, emotional stress, illness and malnutrition – menstruation can be affected. So it is not strange if people’s menstrual cycles seem to be off for several cycles after vaccination.
Even Krissy found this lately true: After two months of irregular cycles, her period seems to have resumed normally. Talib added that there are new and ongoing studies that are now looking closely at the impact of the COVID vaccine on menstruation in adult women.
But researchers can go a long way in gaining women’s trust. “Women’s problems are often overlooked,” Krissy says of her experiences with the health care system to date. “Maybe they don’t care. Maybe if something like this had an impact on sperm counts, it would be researched until further notice. But doctors think, “Oh women, their cycles are irregular in every way.”
Talib says she has come to better understand the importance of her voice in discussing the vaccine with patients and their families.
“I feel like I’m on autopilot sometimes and saying the same thing over and over, but saying it out loud on a clinical visit is quite powerful,” he said. “You don’t have to change everyone’s mind in every clinical encounter, but that’s not the goal. The goal is just to share evidence-based information about the COVID-19 vaccine and keep the conversation going.”
Reich says it’s not surprising that this is something that parents, especially mothers, discuss among themselves: “Mothers always talk to each other about health, schools, children’s activities. I know children. ” He added that when it comes to vacant groupings of hesitation, it’s not that these peer groups self-select, but rather that the more people know a mother won’t vaccinate, the more likely she is not to vaccinate her children as well. . to maintain the standards of their social networks.
Talib added that an important part of any conversation with hesitant parents is the reminder that “vaccinators end pandemics – and children deserve to be protected as adults are.” Risks for otherwise low-risk children go beyond serious illness and hospitalization, he said, and also include things that can affect their mental health such as having to be quarantined away from school and activities, tests show. constant, and the risk of infecting other adults who may be more at risk. Children who are immunocompromised or who have other COVID-19 risk factors should be considered as well.
“We need to focus on these children and their families as well and not forget about them,” Talib said. “These families count the days until their children can get the vaccine and they don’t want to share their experiences and fears.”
Reich said the stakes can be particularly high for mothers. “Part of that is that everything that happens to children tends to be tied to mothers’ decisions, ”she said. “I don’t think you have to subscribe to conspiracies to think you want to feel like you thought this and feel certain in your decisions. It’s been a year that causes anxiety, and vaccines are a new form of anxiety.”
For some, he said, “Wait and see if you feel safer, even if it’s not safer.”