One of the most pressing concerns right now among pregnant and lactating individuals is whether to get a COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant patients with symptomatic COVID-19 are at an increased risk for severe illness compared with individuals who are not pregnant.
Given this risk, the general recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the CDC is that pregnant and lactating women should be offered a vaccination if they are part of certain populations, such as frontline essential workers, and at the discretion and direction of their provider. More specifically, ACOG makes the following recommendations:
- COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet criteria for vaccination based on (ACIP)-recommended priority groups.
- COVID-19 vaccines should be offered to lactating individuals similar to non-lactating individuals when they meet criteria for receipt of the vaccine based on prioritization groups outlined by the ACIP.
The prioritization groups outlined by the ACIP continue to evolve as time goes on and more vaccines become available, but they currently include healthcare workers and frontline essential workers (including first responders, educators, food and agriculture workers, manufacturing workers, corrections workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, public transit workers, and grocery store workers), as well as long-term care facility residents, adults 65 and older, and people with high-risk medical conditions who are between the age of 16 and 64.
Compared with non-pregnant individuals, people who are pregnant with symptomatic COVID-19 are at an increased risk of death, ICU admission, and the need for ventilation. Pregnant individuals may also be at an increased risk for preterm birth and other adverse pregnancy outcomes. As is seen in the broader population, pregnant Hispanic and Black individuals are experiencing disproportionately higher infection and death rates from COVID-19. And among women who are Asian and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, there is a heightened risk of ICU admission.
But despite knowing that pregnant women are at a higher risk of severe infection, this still leaves a big question: is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for pregnant women? At this point, the data on COVID-19 vaccine safety during pregnancy is still limited. Vaccine manufacturers are monitoring people who became pregnant while enrolled in vaccine clinical trials, and further studies among pregnant individuals are planned.
“Based on how mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant,” the CDC reports. “However, the actual risks of mRNA vaccines to the pregnant person and her fetus are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women.”
If you’re not sure about vaccination, remember—the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory, and your healthcare provider can help answer any questions or concerns you may have. You may want to speak with a doctor about how the vaccine works, its potential side effects, the lack of vaccine data among pregnant individuals, and how COVID-19 could affect you and your fetus. You can also find out more about vaccine recommendations for pregnant and lactating women on this CDC information page.
“AOA physicians are aligned with the recommendations from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)”, says Monte Swarup, MD, FACOG. “The current recommendation is that the vaccination should be available to pregnant and lactating women if they are part of certain populations, such as frontline essential workers, and at the discretion and direction of their provider. The research on vaccine safety during pregnancy and lactation is currently limited, but we believe the vaccine is unlikely to pose a specific risk among pregnant individuals and those who are breastfeeding.”
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.