As the U.S. undergoes the largest and fastest mass vaccination program in history, we're getting a number of questions about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially with regard to the risks it may pose for expectant mothers.
In short: yes, we believe it’s a good idea for pregnant women to get vaccinated! Here’s why:
A bit of backstory.
In December, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published an advisory note stating, in part, that the COVID 19 vaccine "should not be withheld" from a pregnant woman and "should be offered" to lactating individuals.
However, in a statement released by the WHO in early January 2021, the organization recommended against vaccination for pregnant people unless they are at high risk of exposure or have comorbidities. A revised statement was released in the following weeks saying they "don’t have any specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women."
And the CDC? They have designated pregnant people as an increased risk population and said they should be "free to make their own decision regarding COVID-19 vaccination."
Why the disagreement?
The clinical trials of the new vaccines explicitly excluded pregnant people, meaning that we don't quite have enough data from individuals who have chosen to get the vaccine to say for sure they are safe during pregnancy. Because of this, some are being extra cautious about greenlighting the vaccine for all pregnant women, while others argue there's strong evidence that pregnancy elevates the risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms and death, so it should be on the table.
So, where are we now?
During a media event Feb. 1, Dr. Fauci said that about 100,000 pregnant women in the U.S. have been vaccinated and so far, there have been "no red flags".
Sarah Carroll, director, immunization, infectious disease and public health preparedness at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, echoed Fauci in a webinar saying that the group has tried, without success, to advocate for the inclusion of pregnant people in COVID-19 vaccine trials, in part, because they're at an increased risk for contracting the virus.
But the reality is, there's just not enough data to tell us for sure that the COVID vaccine is totally safe for pregnant individuals.
OK, but when will we find out?
Honestly, it's hard to say. There is some preliminary data, but more studies are planned or are starting to get underway in an effort to better understand how pregnant and breastfeeding people, and their children react after getting the vaccine.
Both the FDA and CDC have indicated that the COVID-19 vaccine is very safe and has tested well on non-pregnant women and animals in vaccination trials. From our perspective, getting the vaccine sure beats getting COVID. To make the best decision for you and your baby, though, we suggest speaking with your healthcare provider about your risk.