Breaking down CDC guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations for pregnant people

Virus Outbreak-Pregnant Women
Posted at 4:50 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 19:12:17-04

MILWAUKEE — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory Wednesday recommending urgent action to increase COVID-19 vaccinations among pregnant people, those trying to get pregnant, and those who might become pregnant.

The CDC says it “strongly recommends” COVID-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks. Officials say the vaccines help prevent serious illness, deaths, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

"I do think pregnant women maybe haven't gotten enough of the message," said Dr. Matthew Lee, Medical Director of the Women & Families Service Line at Ascension Hospital.

Additionally, the advisory calls on health departments and clinicians to educate pregnant people on the benefits of vaccination and the safety of recommended vaccines.
Dr. Lee says he can't stress to women enough how important it is to get vaccinated against the deadly virus.

"We've had young pregnant women in the ICU at many of our ascension hospitals in Milwaukee," said Dr. Lee.

CDC data shows that about 97% of pregnant people hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

According to the data, only 31% of pregnant people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and vaccination rates vary markedly by race and ethnicity. The CDC says vaccination coverage is highest among Asian people who are pregnant at 45.7%, but lower among Hispanic or Latino pregnant people at 25%, and lowest among Black pregnant people at 15.6%.

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Milwaukee mom Kate Junk says after talking to her doctors, she decided to get vaccinated while she was pregnant with her fourth child back in March.

"I didn't have any side effects or anything. It was just easy and it's been really reassuring. She's perfectly healthy, she'll be five months on Sunday, she's made all of her milestones. She's giggly - she's happy," said Junk.

Junk adds that while she understands the process can be scary, she wants moms to make the best decisions for themselves and their babies.

"So many women are becoming seriously ill and dying, it's heartbreaking. I think every mom has their child's best interest at heart; I just would recommend that they speak to trusted professionals who know what they're talking about," said Junk.

Through Sept. 27, the CDC says there were more than 125,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pregnant people, including more than 22,000 hospitalized and 161 deaths. Of those, 22 deaths occurred in the month of August alone.

Cases of COVID-19 in symptomatic pregnant people have a two-fold risk of admission into intensive care units and a 70% increased risk of death, officials say. And pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes that could include preterm birth, stillbirth, and a newborn being admitted into an ICU with COVID-19.

CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky issued the following statement regarding the advisory:

"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.”

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