Three experiments conducted at Israeli hospitals have found that administration of the COVID-19 vaccine does not harm female or male fertility. The studies, conducted at the in-vitro fertilization units at several Israeli hospitals, indicate that the vaccine does not impact the success rates of treatments for pregnancy and birth complications, or sperm count and quality in men. The hospitals participating in the study included, among others, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer and the Hadassah Medical Center. Some of their findings were presented recently at the annual conference of the Israel Fertility Association.
A study conducted recently at the Sheba Medical Center and led by Prof. Raoul Orvieto, head of the fertility and IVF unit at the hospital, examined the effect of the coronavirus vaccinations on IVF treatments among 36 vaccinated couples within a week to three months from administration of the second dose of the vaccine. The findings show that there was no difference in the number of eggs, the quality of the sperm, and the rate or quality of embryos, in comparison to unvaccinated couples who did not contract the virus.
“According to what we’ve seen, the vaccine has no impact at all,” says Prof. Orvieto to Haaretz. “The findings in our study are in line with an American study recently published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) which similarly examined 45 couples undergoing fertility treatments,” he says. It should be noted that despite the positive results, the studies were conducted under some restrictions. Each study included only several dozen test subjects, and the duration of monitoring lasted only weeks or a few months following administration of the vaccine, this due to the relatively short period of time since the child-bearing-age population has begun to be vaccinated. In addition, the studies didn’t deal with menstrual changes among women – a side effect reported by some women after vaccination. But a series of Israeli studies published in recent months shows that thus far, the vaccine has no impact on the fertility of men or women.
A previous study by Orvieto examined the impact of COVID-19 among nine couples, one of each of whom had been ill with the virus. The study examined seven female partners and two males. The findings, published last April, showed that the illness did not affect the women’s ovarian reserves. There was a decrease in the sperm quality of the two men, but it was not clinically significant. The study further found that the embryos produced by these couples during this period were of lower quality. “There is a logical explanation for this. The process of producing eggs and sperm lasts about three months, so the inflammatory process of the COVID illness compromised the production process,” said Orvieto. “That is also why we recommend that couples who were ill wait three months and only then resume the treatment.”
Another study, led by Dr. Anat Hershko-Klement, head of the fertility and IVF unit at Hadassah University Hospital, Mount Scopus, included 32 women undergoing fertility treatments at the unit, divided into three groups. One included nine women recovering from COVID-19; the second had nine women who had been vaccinated against the virus; and the third included 14 unvaccinated women who were found negative for the coronavirus in both PCT and serology tests. The researchers tested a series of fertility parameters, including estrogen and progesterone hormone levels – before and during treatment – ovarian response, egg count, good egg follicle count, and more.
“The fact that these are women treated at the unit allowed us access to a lot of available tests and indices: Hormonal blood test, serology tests, and also access to the follicle fluid taken during egg harvesting. This allowed us to test the antibody levels in both the blood and the follicle fluids, ovarian response against expectations according to the blood and ultrasound tests, and more. We also measured the levels of HSPG2 proteins, which serve as an indicator of egg quality.”
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Hershko-Klement says that the findings are encouraging. “I think that the more work accumulates here in Israel and abroad too...we see that fertility outcomes are not harmed and there are no unusual pregnancy complications. It’s not complete certainty, but it’s an important milestone.”
Male fertility was also found to be unharmed among those who were vaccinated. A study recently conducted at Sheba Hospital by Orvieto included 75 men – doctors and young interns, all vaccinated, who volunteered for the study.“All but one showed normal sperm,” says Orvieto, but irregular sperm in 5% is not unusual, he added.