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The CDC is advising people who are pregnant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images
  • The CDC is advising people who are pregnant to get vaccinated against COVID-19, citing new data that the vaccines do not increase risk of miscarriage.
  • The new guidance puts the CDC in line with other major medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, that have advised pregnant people to get vaccinated.
  • Pregnant people are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data last year on the safety of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy.

The guidance from the CDC now urges unvaccinated people who are expecting a child to get the vaccine.

“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,” Walensky added.

Completion of a 2-dose COVID-19 vaccination series during pregnancy could help prevent COVID-related hospitalization among infants younger than 6 months old, according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) this month from the CDC.

Researchers also found that protection was significantly higher among infants whose mothers received the vaccine later in pregnancy rather than earlier on.

However, researchers couldn’t verify the effectiveness of booster shots to protect these children.

“Although booster doses are recommended for pregnant women, VE (vaccine effectiveness) of maternal booster doses received during pregnancy could not be assessed because of small sample size, which likely underestimated VE,” the study authors wrote.

According to the CDC, an analysis of data from the v-safe COVID-19 Vaccine Pregnancy Registry assessed vaccination early in pregnancy. It found no increased risk of miscarriage among the nearly 2,500 pregnant people who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

CDC data shows that miscarriage typically occurs in about 11 to 16 percent of pregnancies. The v-safe study found miscarriage rates after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine were roughly 13 percent, similar to the expected rate of miscarriage in the general population.

“Although it is difficult to do studies on pregnant women, the CDC looked at retrospective data that concluded that the COVID-19 vaccine did not put women or their unborn babies at any higher risk,” Dr. Teresa Murray Amato, the chair of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in Queens, New York, told Healthline.

“However, the data also concluded that pregnant women infected with the COVID-19 virus were at higher risk for pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia and premature labor,” she cautioned.

The CDC also confirmed that previous data from three safety monitoring systems did not find any safety concerns for pregnant people who were vaccinated late in pregnancy or their babies.

The CDC added that, when combined, this data and the known “severe risks” of COVID-19 during pregnancy demonstrate how the benefits of getting vaccinated during pregnancy outweigh any known or potential risks.

“Although most pregnant women will have a mild disease or be asymptomatic, as a group, pregnant women are at a significantly increased risk for complications from COVID-19,” said Dr. Eran Bornstein, the vice chair of OB-GYN and director of maternal fetal medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

According to Bornstein, complications include:

  • more severe course of infection
  • respiratory distress
  • need for ICU admission
  • death

The CDC also reported that clinicians have seen the number of pregnant people with a coronavirus infection rise over the past several weeks.

“The CDC put out an anticipated strong recommendation for pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” Amato confirmed. “Given the increased spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, it is very important that any pregnant woman reach out to their doctor as soon as possible to discuss the vaccine.”

The CDC cited several reasons for making “vaccination for this population more urgent than ever.”

These reasons include increased circulation of the highly contagious Delta variant, low vaccine uptake for those who are pregnant, and increased risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications related to infection.

“Vaccination of the pregnant mother is extremely important in reducing the likelihood of infection as well as the likelihood of severe disease, and is thus lifesaving,” Bornstein emphasized. “It is recommended by both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.”

Though it’s not clear how much of a protective effect vaccination offers the fetus, “passive immunization may provide short-term protection with other vaccines and may also be possible in this case,” Bornstein acknowledged.

Asked if any of the available vaccines are more or less effective for a pregnant person, Bornstein said the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna “have been associated with the highest protection rate.”

Data confirms that pregnant people can be safely vaccinated against COVID-19 without undue risk to themselves or their unborn child.

Experts confirm that the vaccines are safe and effective, and it’s never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant.

They also say that vaccine protection could even extend to the unborn baby, providing a kind of “passive” protection possible with other vaccines.

A new study from 2022 finds that children were less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 if they were exposed to the COVID-19 vaccine in utero.