30 Sep 2021 CDC Advises COVID-19 Vaccine for Pregnant Women, Lactating Mothers
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an official Health Advisory yesterday (September 29) recommending that pregnant, recently pregnant or lactating women and those trying or planning to become pregnant get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
Healthcare providers, including reproductive health specialists, have recommended for months that pregnant women receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as we reported, arguing that the dangers of contracting the virus—severe illness, death and adverse pregnancy outcomes—far outweigh the potential risk from vaccine side effects. When the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 11, 2020, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) issued an update recommending the vaccine for pregnant and lactating women or those planning to become pregnant and highlighting the heightened health risk to pregnant women who contract COVID-19.
Today’s CDC recommendations are consistent with those of several reproductive health professional associations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
Pregnant People at Heightened Risk of Severe COVID Disease
The advisory reports alarming new data about the dangers to pregnant women from COVID-19: Between January 22, 2020, and September 27, 2021, more than 125,000 pregnant women have been confirmed with COVID-19; of those more than 22,000 had to be hospitalized, and 161 died.
Even more alarming, the highest number of deaths per month from COVID-19 among pregnant women in the U.S. occurred last month, in August 2021. “Although the absolute risk is low,” according to the advisory, symptomatic pregnant people with COVID-19 have twice the risk of ICU admission or ventilation and a 70 percent greater risk of death compared with non-pregnant symptomatic people. Hospital surveillance data shows that some 97 percent of pregnant women who entered the hospital with COVID-19 infection, either for treatment or for delivery, were unvaccinated.
The advisory outlines additional known risks of COVID-19 to pregnancy outcomes, including premature delivery and, in a small number of cases, transmission of the virus from mother to baby.
Despite the known risks of contracting COVID-19, as of September 18, according to the advisory, just 31 percent of pregnant people were fully vaccinated, with even lower rates in underserved or minority communities.
CDC Urges Outreach to Encourage COVID-19 Vaccination for Pregnant Women
The CDC is advising public health agencies and healthcare providers to take measures to encourage pregnant and post-partum patients, as well as those trying or planning to get pregnant, to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Among the agency’s recommendations are increased outreach to and community partnerships in traditionally underserved and hard-to-reach communities, including “tailored, culturally responsive, and linguistically appropriate communication of vaccination benefits.”
Among the most lingering and frustrating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are the politicization of a public health crisis, the persistence of COVID denialism, and the resulting avalanche of dangerous misinformation that has pervaded our communications channels. Fingers crossed that by joining the chorus of other major medical and reproductive health organizations and aligning the medical advisory position, today’s CDC advisory will have the desired effect of reducing confusion and misinformation and providing clear guidance to those who need it.
For questions or additional information about assisted reproduction or surrogacy in the United States under current pandemic conditions, contact our IFLG team.