On Wednesday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an urgent appeal for pregnant women and women who have recently given birth to get vaccinated.
“CDC strongly recommends Covid-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks,” the alert stated.
The alert was targeted at women who are pregnant or lactating and women who are thinking of getting pregnant in the future.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends urgent action to increase Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination among people who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), who are trying to become pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future,” part of the alert read.
The risks associated with Covid-19 and pregnancy are limited to the mothers and the children. Data from the CDC indicates that Covid-19 causes pregnancy complications such as stillbirth. The disease also increases the likelihood of a pregnant woman requiring intensive care or mechanical ventilation.
“In addition to the risks of severe illness and death for pregnant and recently pregnant people, there is an increased risk for adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, including preterm births and admission of their neonate(s) to an intensive care unit (ICU),” the CDC alert continued.
Dr. Dana Meaney Delman, the CDC’s lead on maternal immunization, said that July and August saw an increased number of pregnant people admissions to the ICU. And according to the CDC, a total of 161 pregnant women have succumbed to Covid-19, with 22 of those deaths occurring in August alone.
“As of September 27, 2021, more than 125,000 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases have been reported in pregnant people, including more than 22,000 hospitalized cases and 161 confirmed deaths,” the CDC alert added.
Dr. Meaney Delman told the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that, “The deaths reported in August is the highest number of deaths reported in any month since the start of the pandemic.”
But despite the known risks associated with Covid-19 and pregnancy, only 31 percent of women are vaccinated. That remaining so even after the CDC in late April announced its recommendation that pregnant women be vaccinated. The CDC recommendation came after preliminary data from Pfizer and Moderna vaccines proved safe for women and their children.
The effectiveness of both vaccines hinges on their ability to trigger the production of antibodies and blood proteins capable of protecting individuals from infection.
There has been some apprehension among mothers concerning the vaccine, but studies have shown that mothers can pass some immunity to their children if they get vaccinated. A study published online on September 22 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology—Maternal-Fetal Medicine showed of the 36 newborns whose mothers received either the Pfizer or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine during pregnancy, 100 percent of them had protective antibodies at birth.
On these bases, health officials emphasize the importance of vaccines during pregnancy—the vaccine has the potential to protect two lives.
“If babies could be born with antibodies, it could protect them in the first several months of their lives, when they are most vulnerable,” said Dr. Ashley S. Roman, the Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the Silverman Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Health.
Vaccination among people of color, especially Black pregnant women, is the lowest, with just 15.6 percent of them being vaccinated. The highest vaccination rates are among Asian women (45.7 percent) but lower among Hispanic or Latino women at only 25 percent.
Various reasons are discouraging pregnant people from accessing the vaccine. With limited information being communicated on the subject matter, many are falling prey to misinformation. The CDC director, Dr. Rochelle, encourages those who are already pregnant or are considering pregnancy to talk with their health care providers about the protective benefits of the vaccine for both themselves and the child(ren).