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CDC urges pregnant women get COVID-19 vaccine

CDC urges pregnant women get COVID-19 vaccine

Published
August 20, 2021
Rosaly at work (1)

After consulting with her doctor, Rosaly Rivero decided to get vaccinated against COVID-19 well into her pregnancy. As clinic care coordinator of Highland Middle School Health Center, she was among the first to receive the vaccine at the end of 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new data on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy and is recommending that all pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Expectant women are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection, including death. But their vaccination rates are low, with only about 23% having received at least one dose as of the end of July, according to CDC data. The percentage is even lower among Black and Latina women.

“CDC encourages all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people.”

Before now, official guidance on COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women has largely left the decision up to them due to limited research. This was the case for Rosaly Rivero, ICHS clinic care coordinator at Highland Middle School Health Center. She received the Pfizer vaccine last December when she was 32 weeks pregnant.

“As soon as I received notification from ICHS that I qualified to get the shot, I spoke with my obstetrician and asked for his advice,” Rivero recalled. “My main concern was for my baby's health since there were no studies about the effects of the vaccine on the fetus. I know the flu vaccine is harmless and recommended for pregnant women, so I assumed that the risk was probably the same. He recommended I get vaccinated because the risk of being infected with COVID while pregnant was too high.”

Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH | Director of the Centers for Disease Control

The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people.

Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH | Director of the Centers for Disease Control

According to the CDC, research has shown that COVID-19 presents a significant risk of complications for pregnant women, including preterm birth. Pregnant women who contract the virus also appear to be more likely to require admission to intensive care and use of ventilators.

Rivero and her son Emmanuel at age two months, April 2021.

Concern that the mRNA vaccines might increase the risk of miscarriage when given early in a pregnancy is not supported by the data, the agency's new analysis indicates. Officials say miscarriage rates after the vaccine were similar to the expected rate of miscarriage in any group of pregnant people. The CDC has found that the vaccine is also safe later in a pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Rivero only experienced “a sore arm for a few days” after the first dose and no side effects after the second dose three weeks later. Today, she and her baby are both “totally healthy and well.”

The CDC strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks. As of September 27, 2021, more than 125,000 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in pregnant people, including more than 22,000 hospitalized cases and 161 deaths.

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