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‘Quality of the ovulatory process isn’t jeopardized’

COVID vaccines don’t harm ovaries and neither does virus, Jerusalem doctors find

Reassuring women worldwide, Hadassah researchers record no difference in ovary function between those who are immunized and those who are not

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

A pregnant woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection at a Clalit vaccination center in Or Yehuda, on Purim, February 25, 2021. (Flash90)
A pregnant woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection at a Clalit vaccination center in Or Yehuda, on Purim, February 25, 2021. (Flash90)

Taking a coronavirus vaccine won’t harm ovary function, and neither will catching COVID-19, Israeli researchers have concluded in a study that might reassure vaccine hesitaters and recovered patients alike.

They studied the ovaries of women undergoing IVF, and saw that there was no difference in function between the women based on whether they were vaccinated or unvaccinated, or on whether they had or hadn’t been infected.

Dr. Anat Hershko, director of IVF at Hadassah Hospital on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus, studied the ovulatory function of women undergoing treatment. There was no difference in function between women who were vaccinated with the Pfizer shots and the unvaccinated, she reported, claiming this constitutes a repose to false claims that vaccines harm fertility.

“This is the first time such an important finding on female fertility and the vaccine has been presented in a study,” said Hershko, whose research has been posted online but not yet peer-reviewed.

A baby, born during the pandemic, with the mother (vlada_maestro via iStock by Getty Images)

She added: “It’s a preliminary study and a small one, but we didn’t even see a trend so we seem to be on safe ground.” The assumption is that if there is no difference between women’s ovary function when they are being stimulated for IVF there will also be no difference in regular monthly cycles.

While the study suggests that catching COVID-19 doesn’t inflict specific harm to ovaries that impacts their functioning after recovery, the virus has caused serious harm to the overall health of pregnant women, including a mother-and-fetus death at Hadassah. Hershko expressed hope that her study will spur women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to be vaccinated.

A medical worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit vaccination center in Jerusalem, on March 8, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The 32-patient study found that COVID-19 antibodies did reach the ovaries in both vaccinated women and recovered patients, but observed no negative impact after checking key indicators like hormone levels, the quality of the fluid that surrounds the ovum in an ovarian follicle, and the ratio of estrogen to the number of eggs.

“Many women of reproductive age, especially those who experience difficulty conceiving, have been expressing concerns about the vaccine and been concerned it may reduce fertility and effectiveness of fertility treatment. But this study reassures that the quality of the ovulatory process isn’t jeopardized in any way.

“Given this, and the fact that coronavirus infection can be harmful during pregnancy to the degree that we have seen severe complications in pregnant women who were infected with [the coronavirus], and even deaths, people should be encouraged to take the vaccine prior to pregnancy.”

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