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WHO And CDC: Pregnant Women Can Get COVID-19 Vaccine
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/Manu Padilla
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has changed its tune regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnant women.

    In its recommendation for the use of Moderna COVID-19 (mRNA-1273) vaccine, the international public health organization states:

    “Pregnant women at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. health workers) or who have comorbidities, which add to their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated in consultation with their health care provider.”

    The amendment to WHO’s original guidance occurred on January 29, 2021, after global experts criticized its original stance when it did not recommend the vaccine to pregnant women.

    Many in the medical and scientific global community said those expecting will find it confusing when another international public health organization like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say pregnant women can get the COVID-19 vaccine safely. 

    CDC’s vaccine recommendation says pregnant women may choose to receive COVID-19 vaccine because data show pregnant women are “at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.”

    “Observational data demonstrate that, while the chances for these severe health effects are low, pregnant people with COVID-19 have an increased risk of severe illness, including illness that results in ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, and death compared with non-pregnant women of reproductive age.

    “Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 might be at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, compared with pregnant women without COVID-19.”

    Now, both WHO and CDC say data is still lacking on COVID-19 vaccine safety and pregnancy. As an immunologist explains in this previous article, one of the reasons is pregnant women have been excluded in the phase 3 studies of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. (Read further here the rest of immunologist' answers on whether pregnant women should get the vaccine.)   

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    Why? Clinical trials (not just of the COVID-19 vaccine) have excluded pregnant women as “tradition,” The New York Times reports.

    However, the news outlet added, “The vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, while they have not been tested in pregnant women, have not shown any harmful effects in animal studies. And the technology used in the vaccines is generally known to be safe, experts said.”

    Recommendations from WHO and CDC are now in alignment with this stance.

    WHO states: “Based on what we know about this kind of vaccine, we don’t have any specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women.”

    The CDC points out: “mRNA vaccines do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 and, therefore, cannot give someone COVID-19. Additionally, mRNA vaccines do not interact with a person’s DNA because the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell. Cells break down the mRNA quickly.

    “Based on how mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant.”

    The CDC also adds consulting a doctor is not a requirement for pregnant women to get a COVID-19 vaccine that has been authorized for emergency use.

    While there is no data yet on COVID-19 vaccine safety and breastfeeding, CDC says the vaccine does not pose a risk to a breastfed baby. So, breastfeeding women may choose to get vaccinated.

    CDC is also clear that women do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.  

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    The New York Times said the manufacturer of the Pfizer vaccine will soon conduct testing on pregnant women, and “Moderna plans to establish a registry to observe side effects in women who were immunized with its vaccine.”

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