Board certified in reproductive endocrinology & infertility and in obstetrics & gynecology, Dr. Sara Mucowski earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from Villanova University and then her Medical Doctorate at Drexel University from the College of Medicine in a prestigious six-year combined program. While gaining both of these degrees she was also an emergency medical technician (EMT).
She then completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas. From there Dr. Mucowski completed a reproductive endocrinology and infertility fellowship at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
After completing her fellowship, Dr. Mucowski joined Dallas IVF in 2014.
In our effort to debunk infertility myths surrounding the new mRNA based COVID vaccine, we have been speaking with medical professionals, and fertility specialists in particular, to educate and inform our users about the baseless nature of these claims.
This week, we got the opportunity to have a quick talk with the highly acclaimed, Dr. Mucowski from Dallas IVF where she helped us understand why there is no scientific evidence of the COVID vaccine being even remotely associated with infertility.
Q. Ever since the new mRNA based COVID vaccine launched, rumours have been rife about its efficacy and it's so-called side-effects. One of the most shocking claims we've all come across is that the COVID-19 vaccine being administered by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna can impair fertility.
Now before I researched into this hypothesis, I thought I should get these myths fact checked by a credible medical expert. So, what's the possible reason behind this connection? Why are some people cautioning against the implications of this vaccine on reproductive health?
SM: This is absolutely 100% a myth. Basically, a couple of people, certainly not fertility experts, made false claims saying that the spike protein of the COVID vaccine would be a spike protein against something called syncitin-1 which is part of placental formation. The reality is that the COVID vaccine is not against syncitin-1 or even something similar to syncitin-1, so there's no scientific reason to believe that it would have a response that might affect fertility or future pregnancies.
Q. What is the extent of the similarities between the COVID spike protein and syncitin-1?
SM: I guess just the fact that they're both proteins? They don't have similar amino acid sequences and, they don’t code for the same protein. I'm not entirely sure where that original statement came from. I think it was originally from a blogpost that is not even available anymore, where without any scientific proof or evidence, two European doctors, one was a pulmonary specialist, and the other was a former Pfizer research employee.
But, like social media has the tendency to do, once something's out there, even if it's retracted, it's just out there.
Q: And what about its impact on male fertility?
SM: I wouldn't know that as that's not my area of specialty. But I would actually be more concerned about the fact that actual infection by some viruses have been known to affect fertility negatively, like the Mumps. We know people who get the Mumps have decreased fertility. One of the areas that it attacks is the gonads and that means affecting long term sperm production. There is still a lot to be learned about actual COVID infection and male fertility; however, I have not seen any scientific literature linking vaccination to male infertility.
Q. Do you think the COVID virus has had any impact on fertility in the general population?
SM: I think it's too soon to make that call. The definition of infertility in women under the age of 35 is inability to conceive for a year, and the virus has barely been around that long.
Q. Apart from infertility, what is the consensus on pregnant women getting the vaccine?
SM: We know that pregnancy alters the immune system so the body does not attack the fetus, which is something that's foreign. Women tend to be more susceptible to getting sick when they're pregnant as a result of these immune changes, which includes increased hospitalization and mortality compared to their nonpregnant counterparts.
ASRM, SMFM and ACOG recommend that those trying to conceive, who are undergoing fertility treatments, and pregnant women be given the opportunity to receive the vaccine, especially those who meet vaccination criteria, and that barriers should not be placed to prevent access of pregnant women to protect themselves from a virus like COVID-19 that could be life-threatening.
As always, I encourage women to speak with their physician to answer any specific questions or address concerns regarding vaccination
Furthermore, Dr. Mucowski also shared with us an article published on Fertility and Sterility, an official ASRM publication, shooting down false claims associating "female sterilization" with the COVID vaccine. To read the full article, click here.