Now that more pregnant women have been vaccinated, research shows that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and can offer added health benefits to both mom and her newborn baby. Explore the recommendations from today's top specialists with added insight from our Medical Directors, Dr. Farah Shafi and Dr. James Hellinger.
Pfizer has full FDA approval
The latest research shows that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, but myths have driven some hesitancy among pregnant moms. However, the fact remains that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend that pregnant women get the COVID-19 vaccine. This guidance was also encouraged by the American College of OBGYN and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, two of the most prominent organizations nationwide that make pregnancy recommendations.
It may seem odd that the COVID-19 vaccine trials excluded pregnant women; however, it is standard that research studies don't include this population. Now that more pregnant women are vaccinated, especially now that Pfizer has full FDA approval, the evidence is overwhelming that the vaccination is safe and effective. The CDC will continue registries that track this information for both pregnancy outcomes reported with vaccination. The evidence does not indicate direct or indirect harmful effects to either the mother or the baby.
Infectious disease specialist and medical director at AllWays Health Partners Dr. James Hellinger added, "The health risks of coming down with COVID-19 in pregnancy are clear, dangerous, and best avoided. With thousands of individuals vaccinated safely during pregnancy, obstetricians, pediatricians, and public health authorities have made strong recommendations for pregnant women to get vaccinated."
Passive immunization protects babies against COVID-19
Not only is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective on pregnant women, but there are added health benefits to the mom and the baby both during pregnancy and post-partum. Dr. Farah Shafi, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at AllWays Health Partners explained, "The number one way many of my colleagues are counseling women is by educating them on the health benefits of the vaccine to mom and baby. When you get the vaccine during pregnancy, your immune system produces antibodies against the COVID-19 virus. Even though the vaccine doesn't cross the placenta, the antibodies you produce to fight COVID-19—will cross the placenta and give your baby an immune boost against the virus. That's what we call passive immunization, which helps protect a young newborn baby against COVID-19."
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 protects your newborn baby during the pandemic. There are other types of diseases that providers vaccinate for in pregnancy, such as pertussis whooping cough. For example, the CDC recommends all women receive a Tdap vaccine between the 27th and 36th week of pregnancy. This is so they can start to produce the antibodies and pass them onto a newborn baby, which immunizes the baby against this virus.
Pregnant women are also five times more likely to be hospitalized for severe illness if they contract COVID-19
If you come down with COVID-19 while pregnant, there is a much higher risk that you will be severely ill. Dr. James Hellinger said, "Despite being young and healthy, compared to non-pregnant women, COVID-19 in pregnancy is very dangerous to mother and baby. Get vaccinated now, before pregnancy, and those antibodies will protect you and your baby when you get pregnant. And if you need it while pregnant, get it."
The data shows that when a pregnant person gets infected with COVID-19, changes in the body make it easier to get sick from respiratory viruses, increasing the risk for hospitalization, intensive care, and the need for a ventilator to help them breathe. Pregnant women are also five times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19. In addition, more than 95% of the people hospitalized or who died from COVID-19 are unvaccinated. So, if you are pregnant and in that unvaccinated category, it increases your risk of severe illness or death.
In some parts of the country, hospitals are seeing a surge in unvaccinated pregnant patients hospitalized for COVID-19. It's important to remember that this is preventable. Dr. Shafi added, "What's heartbreaking is that this is a preventable outcome if you get the vaccine. Specialists have reviewed the data; high-risk specialists and maternal-fetal medicine subspecialists strongly recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated because it's considered safe before, during, and after pregnancy.
Dr. Shafi added, "Across the world, I've heard the myth that vaccination will increase your risk of infertility, and that is based on no science whatsoever; this is urban legend flying around on social media. Nothing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccine will adversely affect a woman's reproductive organs."