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Sharp Health News

Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant?

Jan. 13, 2021

Portrait of pregnant woman in park in autumn wearing a protective mask

It's well-known that vaccines can be a polarizing topic. However, for certain groups, like pregnant and nursing mothers, the decision to receive the vaccine that protects against COVID-19 is a layered one.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises pregnant women to consult with their doctor before getting the COVID-19 vaccine, due to the lack of data available in pregnant patients.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has taken a slightly stronger stance, stating that the vaccine should not be withheld from people who are pregnant and lactating.

Dr. Joanna Adamczak, perinatologist and chief medical officer at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, is grateful that her patients will have access to receive the vaccine when it's their turn.

"We know that pregnancy has been categorized as a risk factor for severe COVID-19, and that pregnant women who contract the virus have an increased risk of ICU admission — and even death — when compared with non-pregnant women," says Dr. Adamczak. "The benefit of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and therefore protecting the pregnant mom against COVID, outweighs the theoretical risk of potential harm from the vaccine."

While Dr. Adamczak believes the vaccine risk is low, she recommends that each of her patients consider their individual situation prior to making a decision. She advises mothers to balance the available data, their risks for COVID-19 exposure, and their individual risk for infection and severe disease.

"I ask my patients, what is your potential risk of exposure? Do you live in a household where people may have a higher likelihood of contracting the virus?" says Dr. Adamczak. "Also, what are your underlying conditions that may put you at higher risk if you do contract COVID-19?"

The ACOG reports that pregnant women with comorbidities, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, and pregnant women who are Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander are at significantly higher risk for COVID-19 complications.

Dr. Adamczak notes that while historically pregnant and nursing women have been excluded from taking part in vaccine studies, there are several vaccines that have been proven safe and effective for this population, such as the flu and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccinations.

"The worry is reasonable. I do understand it," says Dr. Adamczak. "However, our job as health care professionals, as OBGYNS, as doctors, is to educate our patients that this vaccine is important and worthwhile to consider."

Dr. Adamczak hopes that, at the very least, expectant moms will have the conversation with their doctor to discuss whether getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the right decision for them.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and how it will be administered at Sharp.

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