Wouldn’t it be great if you had personal access to experts every time you had a question about COVID-19 or the available vaccines? What a relief it would be to get answers to your concerns directly from reliable and expert sources you know and respect.
For Candace Chambers, RN, her colleagues at Sharp HealthCare gave her just such access. Combining their input with her personal knowledge, she was able to make an educated and stress-free decision about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, even when knowing there was a possibility she might soon become pregnant.
Candace is an allergy injection nurse who works with Dr. Bryn Salt, a board-certified allergy and immunology specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. When the pandemic first began, Candace and her colleagues were eager to learn about the coming COVID-19 vaccines.
“Leading up to the vaccines’ production, we were obviously discussing the process among our colleagues and with Dr. Salt,” Candace says. “We had the normal concerns, but being able to discuss it with her specifically offered excellent insight. By the time they opened vaccination up to Sharp employees in late December of 2020, we were all texting about our excitement and made plans to go get vaccinated together as a team.”
Managing misinformation to make an educated choice
At the time Candace was vaccinated, she and her husband Matthew — already parents to a son, Thoren — were not actively trying to add to their family but were certainly open to the idea of having a second child. While some people expressed concerns about whether the COVID-19 vaccines might affect fertility, Candace did not share them, basing her decision to be vaccinated on research and input from her colleagues, Dr. Salt and her OBGYN, Dr. Sandy Truong, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy.
“I had seen some things about fertility concerns with the vaccine but based on all of my research about how the mRNA vaccines work and seeing where a lot of these claims that the vaccines affect fertility were coming from, I frankly didn’t feel that it would be scientifically possible,” Candace says. “So by the time we were able to get vaccinated, there was no question I was going to go as soon as I could.”
What’s more, Dr. Truong had shared with Candace that pregnant people have an increased risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. In fact, pregnant people with COVID-19 are more likely to be hospitalized, need ICU admission, require ventilation and are at increased risk of death.
“There have been no studies demonstrating that the COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility,” says Dr. Truong. “We recommend that anyone trying to get pregnant get vaccinated to avoid contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy.”
Pregnant, protected and ready to spread the word
While Candace was not pregnant when she received her COVID-19 vaccine, she has since learned she is expecting. She, Matthew and big-brother-to-be Thoren are delighted to announce they will soon welcome a baby girl to their family.
Recognizing that she is in an incredibly fortunate position with access to information from trusted sources, a personal background in science and medicine, and a healthy pregnancy, Candace now feels a sense of responsibility to pass on her knowledge about the vaccines’ safety and efficacy and to encourage others to get vaccinated. She has begun to share her personal experience on social media and with friends and family.
“There is so much misinformation these days, and I feel really lucky to understand the science and have colleagues I can discuss everything with,” Candace says. “I know the decision might be harder if I were in a different position, so I like to share why I am so gung ho about the vaccine and say, ‘Hey, I'm vaccinated and I’m pregnant and everything is fine. The science has proven itself.’”
And though Candace admits that she felt mild side effects — pain in the arm where she got the shot, along with some fatigue, body aches and chills — after receiving her vaccine, they quickly passed. However, there is one additional “side effect” of vaccination she’d welcome: her infant being born with antibodies against COVID-19.
Vaccine benefits for both mom and baby
“I would love it if she had some antibodies when she’s born, that would be wonderful,” Candace says. “And I’m ready to get my booster whenever it’s available, which might provide her with even more protection against COVID.”
A recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that Candace’s hopes will likely be realized. The researchers discovered that antibodies against COVID-19 were present in the umbilical cord blood and breastmilk of people who had been vaccinated, showing protective immunity was transferred from pregnant parents to newborns.
Additionally, researchers found significantly higher levels of antibodies from vaccination compared with antibodies brought about by COVID-19 infection in pregnancy.
Based on these findings, as well as additional ongoing research and review of data, Dr. Truong and Candace join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine in recommending that people planning to get pregnant, currently pregnant or lactating receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I think the sooner that you can get vaccinated, the better,” Candace says. “It’s so much better to have those antibodies as soon as possible to avoid having COVID-19, which could be very dangerous for both mom and baby.”