Is it safe to get the COVID vaccine and booster if pregnant?

By The Health News Team | October 5, 2022
Pregnant woman getting vaccinated

Well before the pandemic began, vaccines were a polarizing topic. However, for certain groups, such as pregnant and nursing mothers, the decision to receive the vaccine that protects against COVID-19 became crucial as health experts found the vaccine can offer protection to both the pregnant mother and her unborn child.

In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports that given the potential for severe illness and death during pregnancy due to complications of COVID-19, vaccination is vital for this population. ACOG presented several important recommendations regarding COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy:

  • Pregnant individuals should be vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • Pregnant people should receive a booster dose following the completion of their initial COVID-19 vaccine series.

  • The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA and the Novavax COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccine boosters, are preferred for pregnant and lactating individuals.

  • Vaccination may occur in any trimester and is recommended as soon as possible to maximize the health of both the mother and the unborn child.

  • COVID-19 vaccines can be received at the same time as other vaccines routinely received during pregnancy, such as the influenza vaccine, commonly known as the flu shot.

“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 nonpregnant women,” says Dr. Joanna Adamczak, perinatologist and chief medical officer at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. “The benefit of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and booster, and therefore protecting the pregnant mom against COVID, outweighs any theoretical risk of potential harm from the vaccine. Additionally, receiving the flu vaccine this season is important as well, as it is expected to be a bad flu year and pregnant women are at risk for significant complications.”

How COVID-19 can affect an unborn child
According to ACOG, studies show that antibodies that protect from COVID-19 infection and severe illness are passed to the fetus when a pregnant person is vaccinated. Additionally, there is no evidence pregnant women or their infants are negatively affected by COVID-19 vaccination — before or after birth — and a growing body of data supports the vaccines’ efficacy and safety.

On the other hand, COVID-19 infection during pregnancy is associated with:

  • Increased risk of severe illness, admission to an intensive care unit, the need for mechanical ventilation and death

  • Increased risk of complications from COVID-19 in pregnant people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, increasing age and heart disease

  • Increased risk of preterm delivery and a potential increased risk of stillbirth

  • Significantly increased risk of complications for pregnant women who are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander

While Dr. Adamczak supports ACOG’s recommendations, she advises everyone to talk with their doctor about their individual situation prior to making a decision about vaccination. It is vital, she says, that women who plan to become pregnant or who are pregnant balance the available data, their risks for COVID-19 exposure, and their individual risk for infection and severe disease.

“The worry surrounding vaccination during pregnancy is reasonable,” says Dr. Adamczak. “I do understand it. However, our job as health care professionals, as OBGYNS, as doctors, is to educate our patients that this vaccine is important and worthwhile during pregnancy.”

Get COVID-19 vaccine and testing information and access to COVID-19 resources from Sharp.

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