The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday issued an urgent health advisory, “strongly” recommending that people who are pregnant or lactating get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The agency is stepping up its efforts to convince these vulnerable groups of the benefits of vaccination. Scientists are battling waves of misinformation that are contributing to low vaccination numbers among people who are pregnant, lactating or trying to become pregnant.
Data shows coronavirus vaccines do not increase the risk of miscarriage or birth defects, nor do they have any negative impacts on fertility. But according to CDC data, only 31 percent of pregnant people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and vaccination rates vary markedly by race and ethnicity.
For example, only 15.6 percent of non-Hispanic Black pregnant people reported being vaccinated, the lowest among all demographics.
As of Sept. 27, more than 125,000 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in pregnant people, the CDC said, including more than 22,000 hospitalized cases and 161 deaths.
According to the CDC, 97 percent of pregnant people hospitalized (either for illness or for labor and delivery) with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection were unvaccinated.
The agency reported 22 COVID-19-related deaths among pregnant people in August, the highest for a single month.
“Pregnancy can be both a special time and also a stressful time – and pregnancy during a pandemic is an added concern for families. I strongly encourage those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to talk with their healthcare provider about the protective benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
The CDC only last month officially recommended the vaccine for people who are pregnant or lactating, but has tried to make it clear that the benefits for both pregnant persons and their fetus or infant outweigh known or potential risks.
Groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine also recommended pregnant people get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people, CDC said. Cases of COVID-19 in symptomatic, pregnant people have a two-fold risk of admission into intensive care and a 70 percent increased risk of 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 people without COVID-19.