CDC Recommends Pregnant People Get a COVID Vaccine as Cases Continue Rising: 'Safe and Effective'

The agency says "it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations" as the Delta variant continues spreading

covid and pregnancy
Pregnant woman getting vaccinated. Photo: getty

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people who are pregnant or want to become pregnant to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The recommendation was made Wednesday as numbers of pregnant people infected with the coronavirus soar nationwide. Those breastfeeding are recommended to get vaccinated as well.

"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," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a press release.

According to CDC data, just 23% of pregnant people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. With the Delta variant spreading rapidly across the country, the CDC says this low vaccination rate on top of an increased risk of pregnancy complications and severe illness related to COVID-19 among pregnant people "make vaccination for this population more urgent than ever."

In a new analysis of current data, the CDC says it did not find an increased risk of miscarriage among the nearly 2,500 pregnant women who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy, per the release.

Additionally, miscarriage rates after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine were around 13%. Miscarriage typically occurs in around 11 to 16% of pregnancies in general.

Data from three previous safety monitoring systems did not show any safety concerns for pregnant people vaccinated late in pregnancy — or for their babies. The CDC says the benefits of pregnancy people getting vaccinated against COVID-19 "outweigh any known or potential risks."

Of the nearly 105,000 pregnant U.S. women who have contracted COVID-19, almost 18,000 have been hospitalized, according to the CDC. One-fourth required intensive care and 124 have died.

In states with low vaccination rates, some hospitals are seeing higher numbers of infected mothers-to-be than they did at the peak of winter.

"This is by far the worst we've seen in the pandemic," Dr. Jane Martin, an obstetrician with Ochsner Baptist Medical Center in New Orleans, told The Associated Press. "It's disheartening and it's exhausting. It feels like it doesn't have to be like this."

After numbers of pregnant people sick with COVID-19 declined, Martin said, "A week or two ago that pace changed drastically," noting most require intensive care.

Of at least 30 pregnant patients Martin said she's cared for over the last two weeks, most were unvaccinated.

Dr. Jeannie Kelly, an obstetrician at Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, told the AP that some pregnant patients critically ill with COVID-19 suffer organ failure, leading doctors to induce labor early or deliver babies by cesarean section as a final option.

One in five patients admitted to the hospital for labor and delivery last week at the St. Louis hospital had COVID-19 — more than double the rate during the COVID-19 surge in Missouri last year, according to Kelly. About one-third of those admitted were considered critically ill.

If the number of COVID-19 infections in pregnant people is to decrease, Martin said there is just one solution: "Vaccinating people is the only way out."

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