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Can the COVID vaccine affect fertility in men or women? We looked into it

News 8 spoke with a woman who is hoping to get pregnant as well as her fertility doctor to get answers on if the COVID vaccine messes with fertility.

SAN DIEGO — Some of the people who may be hesitating on getting the COVID-19 vaccine include those who are hoping to get pregnant. Some women and men are worried about how it may affect their fertility.

News 8’s Neda Iranpour spoke to Ashlee Patton who is hoping to get pregnant and an expert to help find out if there’s any reason for concern.

Ashlee Patton of San Diego is one of many people, not in a hurry to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Patton has been trying to conceive with the assistance of doctors using multiple fertility treatments. She says she’s put her body through enough and isn’t quite ready for even more medical intervention.

If anyone has been through fertility treatments, they know a lot of intervention is involved.

Ashlee Patton says, “it’s been about five years of us trying to start a family and with obviously no success. So we did reach out to some fertility groups to start that journey. We’ve had five IUI’s and in our second round of IVF, so it’s been an emotional and expensive process.”

She says the process has also been confusing in part because they do not know why they’ve had such a struggle to have a baby, “every test that I’ve done and that my husband has done, have come back normal with no obvious red flags. So that’s hard. You don’t know what you’re up against or what you’re battling. You’re just trying to start a family.”

She has been relying on doctors at the Fertility Specialists Medical Group through Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF.) Her doctors have suggested she get the COVID-19 vaccine but here’s her take. Patton says, “we’ve been doing this for so long and they’ve got all of my lab work and everything has been monitored so closely and has stayed consistent so introducing something new to it before we reach the end scares me.”

We spoke to one of her doctors, Dr. Wendy Shelly who is a reproductive endocrinologist, trained in infertility. She says, “anybody that is trying to conceive falls in that category of individuals that should be vaccinated if at all possible.”

But Dr. Shelly also recognizes how sensitive and personal this is and she points out misinformation doesn’t help, “this is an incredibly emotional journey and when you have been waiting a long time and working hard and gone through testing, it’s difficult to consider something that you’re hearing rumors that could affect your opportunity.”

So we asked her directly - does the vaccine affect fertility? She says, based on data and research - no.

Dr. Shelly says, “it’s a very safe thing to do and certainly a recommendation." She added, "a majority of my patients have been vaccinated, most have been vaccinated prior to getting pregnant.”

We also asked her if sperm count gets impacted by the vaccine at all. She says related to the vaccine specifically, absolutely not. “There is nothing on a cellular level that the vaccine can do to impact sperm productions.”

What Dr. Shelly does say might happen is – if you get flu-like symptoms from the vaccine then your menstrual cycle or sperm count might be impacted momentarily, as it might when you get a fever or are stressed. But she doesn’t believe that’s enough to ruin your chances of getting pregnant.

COVID-19, Dr. Shelly points out, could hurt fertility much more by leading to more extreme symptoms.

So Patton says she’ll keep staying away from high-risk scenarios, “just really taking care of myself making sure I’m healthy and I work from home, the mask mandate has been lifted but I will still wear a mask.”

She’s avoiding crowded places and is hanging out with her small group of vaccinated friends, hoping this second and final round of IVF goes smoothly and successfully.

Patton says, “I trust the doctors, I really do. They’ve been working with me to try to get me pregnant for a really long time but I’m going to keep doing what I feel comfortable with.”

She does say eventually she plans to be vaccinated because she misses seeing her relatives and hopes to do that soon, with a child, who she plans to shower with love.

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