We’ve written several articles outlining the benefits of being vaccinated against COVID-19 jabs. The most salient argument for our readers is that COVID-19 infection poses a clear and present danger to couples who are trying to conceive. However, we have not made our position a crusade. Getting the jabs is a scientifically sound decision, so we could make a strong case for it. However, science isn’t everything and science changes.
On this second point, let’s look at the COVID-19 vaccines. Undoubtedly these have saved thousands of lives and kept hundreds of thousands of potential COVID-19 patients from overwhelming the healthcare system. However, originally, we were told that the vaccines would prevent transmission of the virus. Remember that holy grail of herd immunity? Now, with the delta and omicron variants, we see this is clearly not the case, even if we are boosted with a third jab.
So, the science changed as more data became available. And the problem here is that shifting science creates uncertainty.
For people who are already reticent to get vaccinated, this ongoing scientific uncertainty doesn’t encourage 100% confidence in the vaccination programme. And for couples who are trying to conceive or have achieved a pregnancy that reticence is ingrained.
The remedy for reticence about the vaccines is education. Coercion or labelling of those unwilling to take the vaccines isn’t helpful. Nor is the attitude that the unvaccinated are undeserving of the same level of care as the vaccinated population.
Scotland delays IVF for unvaccinated
However, some authorities have taken a more bigoted view. One of these is the Scottish government, whose decision to delay IVF services for unvaccinated women because of COVID-19 risk has been branded inhumane. The decision applies to all fertility treatment, except urgent fertility preservation and will be reviewed in February or earlier if appropriate.
In Scotland all fertility treatment for Covid-19 unvaccinated women has been deferred where the treatment could result in a pregnancy, with immediate effect or from whenever is practical. The UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority have stated. This has not gone down well in some quarters.
Denying the right to a family
Dr. Mary Neal Professor of Healthcare Law and Ethics, Strathclyde University said those refused treatment could claim they were being unlawfully discriminated against due to their inability to conceive naturally. They might also claim that they are being denied the right to a family life, which is protected under human rights legislation.
She continued, “On the face of it this sounds like a sensible policy, but my concern is the potential indefinite nature of these delays, which will cause concern to people who want to become pregnant. If I was a woman who was running out of time to become pregnant, I think this would hit quite hard.”
Distressing for fertility patients
Tone Jarvis-Mack, The Fertility Foundation warned it would be difficult for those who have been trying for a baby during the pandemic. He said, “I understand why they’re trying to do this. They’re obviously trying to protect the patient, protect the potential baby and protect the wider community.” However, he said it would be distressing for those unvaccinated women who are hoping to undergo IVF. He added, “I totally understand that they’re frustrated and probably quite upset with this decision.”
Jackie Baillie MSP, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, was more forthright. She said, “It is heartbreaking for those couples to have infertility treatment cancelled at the last minute. Of course, I would encourage everyone to get vaccinated as the best protection against the virus, but the rules were confusing at the start and treating these women in this way is inhumane. The Scottish Government should rethink their position urgently.”
At The Fertility Hub we believe all patients, regardless of vaccination status, should be entitled to IVF treatment and that the creation of an us and them scenario between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is entirely unwarranted in this instance.