As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to a broader range of ages and occupations, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be starting to think about what they should do when the vaccine becomes available to them. Vivian Mishan, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN at Women’s Health Specialists of CentraState, answers your questions on COVID vaccination, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.
Should pregnant people get the COVID vaccine?
Health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) all recommend that pregnant individuals consider receiving the COVID vaccine, said Dr. Mishan, especially if they have other comorbidities, are healthcare personnel or other frontline essential workers.
“The benefits of receiving the vaccine may outweigh the risks,” Dr. Mishan said. “But pregnant patients also need to discuss their underlying health concerns with their doctor.”
When having that discussion with their physician, it’s important to consider that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, and preliminary studies show mRNA vaccines are not a risk during pregnancy. Further research is underway. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a technology that has previously been well studied and implemented in other vaccine-preventable diseases that included pregnant people.
Pregnant women will also want to weigh their risk of developing a severe case of the illness when considering whether the vaccine is the right choice for them. The CDC cites that the risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19 during pregnancy is low. But compared with non-pregnant patients, those who contract COVID-19 while pregnant are at increased risk of a serious case, requiring hospitalization, needing a ventilator and even death, according to U.S. data. Also, pregnant women with COVID-19 may be at a higher risk of delivering prematurely than those without COVID-19.
“By pairing the known vaccine facts with any risk factors, potential for exposure, and personal preferences, those who are pregnant can make the best decision for their own situation,” Dr. Mishan said. “High-risk patients should discuss the vaccine with their physician and determine the best decision to meet their individual needs. Pregnant patients who decline the vaccine are supported in their decision.”