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CDC urges pregnant women to get COVID vaccine

Pregnant women should prioritize vaccination against COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Wednesday, citing rising numbers of expecting mothers admitted to hospitals with the virus.

“CDC encourages all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant and see severe outcomes fromCOVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people.”

More than 105,000 pregnant women have contracted the virus to date, CDC data shows, with 18,000 hospitalizations. The latest cases among pregnant women, more than 3,400 in July, are not near the peak reached at the end of 2020, before the coronavirus vaccine was available, but the numbers are a sharp uptick since the agency approved vaccines for pregnant women in April.    

For the general public, new coronavirus cases in the U.S. have topped 100,000 nearly every day this month, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant and stagnating vaccination rates. The majority of infections are centered around the Sun Belt, with Florida and Texas accounting for one in three cases. Hospitalizations have also risen sharply.

The latest surge has prompted the CDC to step up efforts to convince the unvaccinated populace to get the shot. One of those demographics hesitant to receive the vaccine is pregnant women.

Only 23% of pregnant women received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of July 31, the CDC notes, compared to 71% of the general public.

The federal health agency’s recommendation comes on the heels of a new analysis showing no increased risk of miscarriage among a sample of 2,500 pregnant women who received the vaccine before the 20th week of gestation. Miscarriages generally occur in 11-16% of pregnancies, according to the CDC, and the most recent study found about 13% of vaccinated pregnant woman lost their baby.

In addition, the CDC said the study showed antibodies were present in the umbilical cord, suggesting possible protection passed on to the baby after birth.

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The new data corresponds with previous information gathered from three monitoring systems, including a voluntary smartphone-based registry, that show little risk of pregnancy complications arising from the vaccine.

More pressing for health officials, the new study shows unvaccinated pregnant women are more susceptible for serious illness from COVID-19 compared to vaccinated pregnant women.

The CDC’s recommendation follows advice from the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“It is clear that pregnant people need to feel confident in the decision to choose vaccination, and a strong recommendation from their obstetrician–gynecologist could make a meaningful difference for many pregnant people,” said J. Martin Tucker, the president of ACOG, in a statement. “Pregnant individuals should feel confident that choosing COVID-19 vaccination not only protects them but also protects their families and communities.”

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Chief Specialist Kyle Steckler/U.S. Navy

Hospitalman Cierrajaye Santella prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC is urging pregnant women to get vaccinated, following advice from the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.