CDC Takes Stronger Stand on COVID-19 Vaccinations During Pregnancy
Now more than ever, pregnant women need to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to public health officials. Find out how the CDC came to that conclusion based on recent studies showing no obvious safety signals, as well as mounting data that expectant mothers are more likely to suffer severe cases.
ATLANTA – The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking an increasingly strong stand on the need for COVID-19 vaccines in expectant mothers.
The CDC recently emphasized that, with more evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy.
In response to a widely spread misinformation, public health officials also advised that no evidence suggests that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.
Part of the concern is that pregnant women appear to be at greater risk of having more severe outcomes from novel coronavirus infections. “Although the overall risk of severe illness is low, pregnant and recently pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared with non-pregnant people,” the agency states. “Severe illness includes illness that requires hospitalization, intensive care, need for a ventilator or special equipment to breathe, or illness that results in death. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk of preterm birth and might be at increased risk of other adverse pregnancy outcomes, compared with pregnant women without COVID-19.”
Some of the new guidance was based on a CDC study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. From Dec. 14, 2020, to Feb.28, 2021, researchers used data from the “v-safe after vaccination health checker” surveillance system, the v-safe pregnancy registry, and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) to assess the initial safety of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in 35,691 v-safe participants 16 to 54 years of age identified as pregnant.
In terms of side effects, they report that Injection-site pain was reported more frequently among pregnant recipients than among nonpregnant women, although headache, myalgia, chills, and fever were reported less frequently.
“Among 3,958 participants enrolled in the v-safe pregnancy registry, 827 had a completed pregnancy, of which 115 (13.9%) resulted in a pregnancy loss and 712 (86.1%) resulted in a live birth (mostly among participants with vaccination in the third trimester),” according to the report, which adds that no neonatal deaths were reported. . Adverse neonatal outcomes included preterm birth in 9.4% and small size for gestational age in 3.2%.
“Although not directly comparable, calculated proportions of adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes in persons vaccinated against Covid-19 who had a completed pregnancy were similar to incidences reported in studies involving pregnant women that were conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic,” the authors explain. “Among 221 pregnancy-related adverse events reported to the VAERS, the most frequently reported event was spontaneous abortion (46 cases).”
Based on preliminary findings, the authors advise that no obvious safety signals were identified among pregnant women who received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines but called for more longitudinal follow-up. They suggest that follow-up of large numbers of women vaccinated earlier in pregnancy will be necessary to better understand maternal, pregnancy, and infant outcomes.
While the NEJM study focused specifically on mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the CDC also points out that no adverse pregnancy-related outcomes occurred in previous clinical trials that used the same vaccine platform as the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC adds that recent research suggests that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy not only reduces the risk for infection in expectant mothers, it also appears to help protect the baby because antibodies were found in the umbilical cord.