A Facebook post allegedly claimed the coronavirus vaccine caused an OB-GYN’s miscarriage.
But the doctor suffered the loss before receiving the vaccine, according to her Instagram posts.
Based on how it’s made and data so far, scientists say it’s likely the vaccine is safe in pregnancy.
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When Dr. Michelle Rockwell woke up Sunday morning, just a couple months after suffering a pregnancy loss, she said she saw her photos plastered on social media claiming her miscarriage was caused by a COVID-19 vaccine.
Rockwell screenshotted the circulating post, which no longer appears to be visible.
Previously, Rockwell, an OB-GYN in Tulsa, had posted about her pregnancy loss on her account, @DoctorMommyMD, which has more than 26,000 followers. Separately, she had posted about her vaccination.
But the anti-vaxx post baselessly linked the two, despite the fact that Rockwell suffered the miscarriage before she received the vaccine, she wrote in a post Monday addressing the incident and misinformation on the internet more generally.
“How soulless and predatory of someone to take someone’s heartbreak and modify it to further their own agenda,” she said. “Misinformation is spread so quickly because people don’t pause and think before hitting the share button.”
Insider talked to doctors about why the coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to raise the risk of miscarriage or other complications during pregnancy.
Rockwell posted about her miscarriage December 1 and her vaccine December 21
“We lost our sweet baby,” Rockwell, who has two kids, wrote on Instagram December 1. On December 21, she posted a selfie while getting the coronavirus vaccine. Rockwell posted again about her miscarriage on January 14, sharing a picture from before she underwent a D&C, a procedure to remove the pregnancy tissue.
“After she was gone, little baby clothes I excitedly bought still showed up to the house,” Rockwell wrote January 14. “I quietly packed them away. My heart is still so broken, but I found a strength in me I didn’t know existed.”
Whoever pulled Rockwell’s pictures overlooked this timeline.
“If anyone actually went to my IG and scrolled through my posts they would see I miscarried 3 weeks before receiving the vaccine,” Rockwell wrote Monday. “I had my D&C 2 days after the vaccine but my sweet baby was gone long before that.”
She used the experience to remind followers to be smart about information consumption and proliferation. She urged them to double-check if the information is correct, consider the source, take into account who is posting, question if something is too good to be true, and keep in mind how what you share affects others.
“Remember there is a human on the other side of the screen,” she wrote. “Who has feelings. Who feels heartache.”
Based on the way it works, the vaccine is believed to be safe in pregnant people
Researchers are still collecting data on the potential risks of the vaccine to pregnant people, though healthcare and public health professionals expect that they’re low.
“Based on how the COVID vaccine works, there should be very little risk to a developing baby,” pediatrician and neonatologist Dr. Jessica Madden, who’s also the medical director of Aeroflow Breastpumps, previously told Insider. That’s because, like the flu vaccine, the coronavirus vaccines do not contain live virus.
“The mRNA in the vaccine acts locally, in the muscle cells surrounding the injection site,” she said. “It cannot enter into cells’ nucleus, thus it has no effect on DNA.” It also doesn’t enter into the placenta or otherwise directly interact with the fetus.
“There is no vertical transmission,” or transmission between mom and baby, of the virus or the vaccine, OB-GYN Dr. Jessica Shepherd told Insider.
And, because the vaccine prompts the body to produce antibodies very similar to the natural ones produced in response to infection, if they attacked the placenta, as another anti-vaccine Facebook post claimed in December, we’d see high rates of complications and miscarriages among the more than 44,000 pregnant people who’ve had COVID-19, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine, told USA TODAY.
But in fact, Shepherd told Insider, studies have shown pregnant people with COVID-19 aren’t significantly more likely to experience pregnancy loss than those without the disease.
The evidence collected so far shows ‘no red flags’ when it comes to vaccination during pregnancy
The few women who did get pregnant while enrolled in the vaccines’ clinical trials reported no complications, and limited data from animal studies haven’t revealed any harms during pregnancy.
Of the more than 100,000 pregnant people who have already gotten vaccinated, “there have been no red flags” regarding their safety so far, infectious-disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a New York Press Club talk in January.
While the vaccine could lead to a fever as a side effect, which can be problematic to the developing fetus early in pregnancy, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it can be treated with Tylenol, which is safe in pregnancy and doesn’t seem to affect how the vaccines work.
Pregnant people are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19
If infected, pregnant people have a higher risk of intensive-care unit admission, ventilation, life support, and even death than patients who aren’t pregnant, though the overall risk is still low, a November report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. They’re also more likely to deliver prematurely.
Pregnant women of color are particularly at risk for contracting the disease and experiencing related complications.
Their increased risk of complications is why the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends pregnant people and those contemplating pregnancy get the vaccine.
Other organizations leave the decision up to the woman. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says “vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals” in prioritized groups, and the CDC and the World Health Organization say eligible pregnant folks “may choose to be vaccinated.”
Shepherd said undecided women who are pregnant or trying to start a family should talk to their OB-GYNs about the pros and cons for them. “This is definitely something that can cause a lot of concern for someone who is pregnant or who is planning to be pregnant, so the best thing is to rely on your OB-GYN to get those facts and not use the internet,” she said.
Factors like transmission rates in the community, your own risk of severe disease from COVID-19, occupation, and pregnancy complications should play into your decision, experts say.
Whatever you choose, “you should feel like your decision is respected,” Madden said, “and please know that if you choose not to get the vaccine right now, or in the future, that it is OK.”
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