The spread of COVID-19 vaccines across the United States has sparked debate, particularly among pregnant people. Getting vaccinated during pregnancy can be confusing and daunting, especially with new strains of the virus surfacing seasonally. This article offers detailed information on the safety and necessity of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy.
Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals often wonder if they can take the COVID-19 vaccine. Recommendations from trusted health organizations such as the CDC, ACOG, and SMFM strongly endorse COVID-19 vaccination for those eligible, including pregnant and breastfeeding people.
The safety of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy has been confirmed through substantial data. Tens of thousands of pregnant women have been safely vaccinated. According to a review published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology Science, no safety issues have been found in pregnant women who have received the vaccine. The vaccine is also proven to be effective in preventing COVID-19 infection during pregnancy.
Contracting the virus while pregnant poses greater risks than getting vaccinated. The CDC has stated that pregnant people face a higher risk of severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19 than those who are not expecting. Therefore, vaccines provide a crucial layer of protection against severe illness and can increase the likelihood of experiencing only mild symptoms in the event of infection.
COVID-19 vaccinations also offer further benefits by generating protective antibodies that can be passed onto the baby until they are old enough to receive the vaccine themselves. According to Shannon Smith, M.D., a board-certified OB/GYN, the vaccine is essential for expectant parents and their babies.
At present, Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) and Moderna (Spikevax) have received full FDA approval for use in pregnant and lactating women for COVID-19 prevention. Additionally, the FDA gave emergency use authorization to a revised version of the Novavax vaccine for the 2023-2024 timeframe for individuals aged 12 years and older.
The Novavax vaccine, unlike the mRNA Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, is a subunit protein vaccine. This type of vaccine triggers the immune system to launch a defensive response against the virus. Large-scale clinical trials suggest that these vaccines are potentially effective at preventing severe illness and death due to COVID-19.
The CDC, ACOG, and SMFM all recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding individuals receive a COVID-19 booster. Even if an individual has been previously fully vaccinated, updated COVID-19 vaccines are considered necessary for adults and children aged five years and older. Anyone who has had their last COVID-19 shot at least two months prior is recommended to receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine.
Children between six months to four years old are required to receive several doses of pediatric COVID-19 vaccines. Currently, all vaccinations are tailored towards the existing circulating strain of COVID-19 for most up-to-date protection.
COVID-19 vaccines are free to most U.S. residents, as stated by the CDC. Individuals with insurance plans that cover the vaccine will not incur any cost. Those without insurance or whose insurance does not cover the vaccine can obtain it free of charge from local health centers and departments or pharmacies participating in the CDC’s Bridge Access Program.
There are several misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine affecting fertility and increasing miscarriage rates. CDC reveals that these statements are false and not evidence-based. Pregnant women can confidently take the vaccine, having been studied extensively and shown to be safe.
Between tens of thousands of pregnant women who were monitored after taking the vaccine, there was no evidence of increased complications in pregnant vaccinated women compared to those not vaccinated. This was confirmed in an interview by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor to the President.
The CDC monitored vaccinated pregnant women through three safety systems until May 2023. Approximately 23,000 pregnant individuals were tracked via v-safe. Subsequently, a systematic review published in the Vaccine journal indicated no safety concerns associated with the vaccination during pregnancy.
There are also potential benefits for newborns whose mothers got vaccinated during pregnancy. Studies suggest that infants may gain passive protection against the virus from their vaccinated mothers. A study published in PLoS One found that pregnant and breastfeeding women who were vaccinated developed antibodies against the virus and transferred them to their infants.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is no longer available in the U.S. as of May 2023. This was due to a risk of a rare blood clot disorder. For those who cannot receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the Novavax vaccine serves as an alternative, subject to discussions with your health care provider.
Ultimately, it is recommended to get the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible for adequate protection during the fall and winter seasons. Any worries or concerns should be discussed with a trusted healthcare provider.