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COVID-19 Vaccination While Pregnant

COVID-19 Vaccination While Pregnant

  • Now that we have COVID-19 vaccines available, we are able to keep our pregnant folks and families safer from infection and serious illness.
  • There is a lot of conflicting information scattered on the internet about pregnant people and the COVID-19 vaccines, let us give you facts about what the research says.
  • Make an informed and empowered decision about getting vaccinated today for you and your family!
COVID-19 Vaccine While Pregnant
Urgent: On September 30, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended urgent action to increase COVID-19 vaccination among people who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), who are trying to become pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future.

The COVID-19 vaccines. Seems like they are all anyone is talking about! With so much information shared daily, it can be hard to know where to start.

First, let’s talk about the vaccines themselves. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone 12 years and older including people that are pregnant, breastfeeding, planning a pregnancy or may become pregnant in the future.3 Right now, there are three vaccines authorized in the U.S. and two different types of vaccines. Pickles & Ice Cream Georgia is here to break down what you need to know along with helpful references for you to learn more!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

The vaccine will protect you and baby against severe illness, hospitalization, and death because your immune system is prepped to deal with the virus already! In fact, vaccinated people are at a 5x reduced risk of getting infected, more than 10x reduced risk of hospitalization, and more than 10x reduced risk of death compared to people who have not been vaccinated.21

Getting the vaccine when you are pregnant can help protect you AND your baby. Reports are also showing that babies can get antibodies from moms who got the vaccine through the placenta during pregnancy or through breastmilk after birth.3,10,12 There is also good news for people who want to get pregnant – there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines causes fertility problems or more miscarriages than the usual rates.3,11,15,16  If you do get vaccinated, you might be able to feel safer to go back to some of the activities you did before the pandemic.3

If you are infected, you can have mild symptoms, which can be considered a “breakthrough case”.18 The good thing is your immune system is better prepared to fight the virus because of the vaccineVaccines are not 100% effective, so these infections are expected, and the purpose of the COVID-19 vaccines is not only to prevent you from getting the virus, but also to prevent you from becoming very sick if you do get the virus. You are much less likely to end up hospitalized, needing a ventilator to help you breathe, and less likely to die when you are vaccinated. 

Research and use of these types of vaccines have been going on for years, and are not new! That’s one reason why they were made and given out so quickly. However, they may be new to you so, here’s a rundown 

mRNA vaccines work by teaching our cells to make a “spike protein” like the protein in the virus that causes COVID-19 so it can fight off virus cells.8

    • While the vaccine itself is new, the technology is not. It’s been researched in other vaccines over the last decade!8 Learn more about how these types of vaccine work here.
    • The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines.
    • Pfizer is FDA approved for people 16 and older and requires two doses given 21 days apart.6 For 12-15 year olds, the vaccine is still under FDA emergency use authorization (EUA).
    • Moderna has EUA for people 18 and older and requires 2 doses 28 days apart.5

Viral vector vaccines work by giving important instructions to our cells using a modified version of a different virus.9 Learn more about how these types of vaccine work here.

    • Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J) vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. 4
    • It is only 1 dose and is approved for people 18 and older.4

Now that we know the basics of what the COVID-19 vaccines are, let’s talk about getting the vaccine while pregnant. Although they were not part of initial clinical trials, many pregnant people have taken the vaccine and have reported their experience into safety monitoring systems like the CDC’s v-safe COVID-19 Vaccine Pregnancy Registry and the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD). According to the v-safe database as of September 30th, 2021, 161,764 people reported themselves as pregnant after vaccination and of those 5,104 are enrolled in the registry.

Initial reports including data from the registry and other reports done outside the CDC, have been researching pregnancy outcomes by comparing pregnancies before the COVID-19 pandemic and pregnant people that have been vaccinated. No reports have shown significant or worrisome pregnancy outcomes for those that have been vaccinated while pregnant. This is a good sign that there is no safety concerns for pregnant people and their babies.3, 11, 12

Pregnant people are not more likely to have side effects. Although not all people have side effects, if you do experience some, they are NORMAL. This immune response means your body is building up protection against the virus and can include:

    • Pain, redness or swelling in the arm where you got the shot
    • Tiredness
    • Headache
    • Muscle pain
    • Chills
    • Fever
    • Nausea

Luckily, they don’t last long. You will feel better within a couple of days.7 Please contact your provider if they last longer or you are worried about your health. The COVID-19 vaccines will not make you sick with COVID-19, and they do not affect or change your DNA in any way.8,9

Research shows that though pregnant individuals are not more likely to get COVID-19, they are more likely to get very sick with COVID-19 and can experience pregnancy complications like preterm birth and pregnancy loss.3,10,11 Pregnant people that may also have other comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity are at an even higher risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death.15 Public health experts including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) strongly support the safety and use of these vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding people.3, 11, 12, 13 While we are still learning and researching all things COVID-19, more and more research is showing that these vaccines are safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 and reducing severity of the illness if you do get sick. 3, 11, 12

As of September 30th, 2021, there have been a total of 691,517 COVID-19 deaths in the United States.26 That’s over the number of total cancer deaths (2nd leading cause of death) and heart disease (1st leading cause of death) in the United States annually.24, 25 Most people do recover from COVID-19, but there is still the possibility of a condition or long COVID where symptoms can last weeks or months after infection. These can include a combination of symptoms like difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, tiredness, cough, diarrhea, rash, change in smell or taste, and changes in your menstrual cycle.29

When it comes to your baby, take the recommended precautions to keep your baby safe from infection during breastfeeding and other close contact if you are positive for COVID-19.

Reports show those that got vaccinated and had COVID-19 before were less likely to get sick again than those that only had COVID-19 at some point in the past and have not gotten vaccinated. Immunity to the virus is higher in people that choose to get vaccinated even if they have already gotten sick with COVID-19 before. These people who did not receive the vaccine had 2.34 times the odds of reinfection compared to people that were fully vaccinated.19 Everyone older than 12, including people who have already had a COVID-19 infection, is encouraged to get the vaccine for the best protection against COVID-19 and possible variants.

Yes. Take a look back at the question “What can the vaccines do for me?” for more information on how the vaccine protects you.

Since the virus is contagious through respiratory droplets, if anyone gets sick the infection can spread to your household as well and potentially others outside your home.20 We know that getting sick with COVID-19 with no vaccination while pregnant can lead to severe illness, hospitalization and death. About 86% of COVID-19 hospitalizations have been unvaccinated people between June-August 2021.27 Getting the vaccine significantly reduces the risk of severe infection, hospitalization and death. Protection against a COVID-19 infection is now more effective and accessible with the availability of free vaccines. Use this information to make an informed and confident decision for you and your family! If you have any concerns or further questions, please discuss with you provider.

Groups authorized by the FDA to receive a Pfizer booster at least six months after their second shot of the Pfizer vaccine are the following:

  • People 65 or older
  • People at high risk of severe COVID-19 18 to 64 years of age
  • People 18 through 64 years of age who are at high risk of exposure like hospital employees or homeless shelter workers that put them at high risk of serious complications and/or severe COVID-19

This approval was made under the current EUA for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 3rd dose booster as an amendment.22, 28

The CDC recommends that people aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions including pregnant people may get the Pfizer COVID-19 booster at least six months after completing their first Pfizer vaccine series.22 Talk to your provider to see if it is appropriate for you to get this booster dose. For those that have had the Moderna or J&J vaccine, there is no recommendation for a booster shot at this time. It is expected that boosters will become available to more people in fall 2021.23

Boosters do NOT mean the vaccine is not working. The vaccines work very well against COVID-19 and the variants. However, we are seeing a waning protection against mild and moderate illness, so boosters will (as their name implies) boost this protection in the coming months.22 By no means, will you no longer be protected when you hit 6 months out form your first shots. Like all vaccines, some immunity strength is lost, but there are many players in your immune system that can still recognize and fight an infection if it happens. We will keep you updated on this as we learn more!

 

More Resources

Need to talk to someone for more information?
    • Call or schedule an appointment with your primary care or prenatal care provider to discuss your options.
    • MotherToBaby- 1-866-626-6847 or https://mothertobaby.org/ask-an-expert/ Experts are available to answer questions by phone or chat in English and Spanish about the COVID-19 vaccination. Here is also their fact sheet on the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy and pregnancy: https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/covid-19-vaccines/  
    • Georgia COVID-19 Hotline: 888-357-0169
Need to know where to get vaccinated?
    • Make an appointment with your primary care provider.
    • Find a site in Georgia: https://dph.georgia.gov/locations/covid-vaccination-site  or call 1-888-457-0186
    • Find a site anywhere in the U.S.  through the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Vaccine Finder from Boston Children’s Hospital: https://www.vaccines.gov
      • Text your zip code to 438829
      •  OR Call 1-800-232-0233

 

Reviewed By: Lauren Kozlowski, MSW, MPH, MotherToBaby Georgia Coordinator, Center for Maternal Substance Abuse and Child Development at Emory University School of Medicine

 

References

          1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists, ACOG Statement on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine
          2. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, BCDC Recommends Use of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Resume
          3. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Information about COVID-19 Vaccines for People Who Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding
          4. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Overview and Safety
          5. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Overview and Safety
          6. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Overview and Safety
          7. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine
          8. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines
          9. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Understanding Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccines
          10. Gray et al., American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynocology, COVID-19 vaccine response in pregnant and lactating women: a cohort study
          11. Riley et al., American College of Obstetrians and Gynocologists, Vaccinating Pregnant and Lactating Patients Against COVID-19
          12. Shimabukuro et al., The New England Journal of Medicine, Preliminary Findings of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Safety in Pregnant Persons
          13. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Statement of Strong Medical Consensus for Vaccination of Pregnant Individuals Against COVID-19
          14. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, V-safe COVID-19 Vaccine Pregnancy Registry
          15. Knight M, Bunch K, Vousden N, Morris E, Simpson N, Gale C et al. Characteristics and outcomes of pregnant women admitted to hospital with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in UK: national population based cohort study BMJ
          16. Elyse O. Kharbanda, MD, MPH1; Jacob Haapala, MPH1; Malini DeSilva, MD, MPH1; et al. Spontaneous Abortion Following COVID-19 Vaccination During Pregnancy
          17. The New England Journal of Medicine. Receipt of mRNA Covid-19 Vaccines and Risk of Spontaneous Abortion
          18. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Case Investigation and Reporting
          19. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Cavanaugh AM, Spicer KB, Thoroughman D, Glick C, Winter K. Reduced Risk of Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 After COVID-19 Vaccination — Kentucky, May–June 2021
          20. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, How COVID-19 Spreads
          21. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Monitoring Incidence of COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths, by Vaccination Status — 13 U.S. Jurisdictions, April 4–July 17
          22. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot
          23. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Joint Statement from HHS Public Health and Medical Experts on COVID-19 Booster Shots
          24. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Update on Cancer Deaths in the United States
          25. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Heart Disease Facts
          26. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, COVID Data Tracker
          27. Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, Unvaccinated COVID-19 hospitalizations cost billions of dollars
          28.  U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA Authorizes Booster Dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for Certain Populations
          29. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Post-COVID Conditions
          30. Center of Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccination for Pregnant People to Prevent Serious Illness, Deaths, and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes from COVID-19

 

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