Health officials with the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention are pleading with pregnant people to get vaccinated against covid-19. In a new urgent health advisory out this week, the CDC says that only around a third of these individuals have gotten fully vaccinated. Research has shown that the vaccines do not raise the risk of health concerns like miscarriages, while contracting covid-19 can be dangerous for both the mother and foetus.
Prior to their authorisation in the U.S. and elsewhere starting late last year, there had been no data collected on the safety of covid-19 vaccines for pregnant people, who have been historically excluded from clinical trials of new drugs and vaccines, often without clear justification. It was a gap that experts had lamented even during the pivotal trials used to secure their authorization, and some warned that it could drive hesitancy among these individuals.
Clinical trials of the vaccines looking specifically at pregnant people have since been started, though none seem to have been completed as of yet. However, real-world data has been collected on the outcomes of pregnant people following vaccination. Research from the CDC and other scientists has found no link between vaccination and an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes like stillbirth, miscarriages, or premature births when compared to the general public.
Other studies have even suggested that vaccination during pregnancy can help the mother pass along coronavirus-specific antibodies to their foetus in the womb or to their newborns through breastfeeding, offering some amount of temporary protection in the event they catch covid-19. Vaccination is recommended for anyone who’s pregnant, considering pregnancy, or currently breastfeeding.
Meanwhile, studies dating back to last year have found that pregnant people face higher risks of severe illness, death, and delivery complications if they contract covid-19. According to the CDC, more than 125,000 cases of covid-19 among pregnant people have been documented in the U.S. as of late September. Of these, more than 22,000 were hospitalised and 161 ultimately died. And with the latest wave of the pandemic fuelled by the Delta variant that arrived this summer, the danger has gone up. In August alone, 22 Americans died while infected and pregnant.
Overall, 65% of Americans over 12 have gotten fully vaccinated. But the same is true for only 31% of pregnant people — a situation that prompted the CDC to issue this plea to the public.
“Pregnancy can be both a special time and also a stressful time — and pregnancy during a pandemic is an added concern for families,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky in a statement accompanying the advisory. “I strongly encourage those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to talk with their healthcare provider about the protective benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe.”
The CDC is also asking local health agencies and health providers to chip in and do their part to encourage vaccination among pregnant people.