U.S. Doctors Encourage Pregnant Women to Get the COVID Vaccine After Conflicting Advice from WHO

Julie Mazziotta
·3 min read

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Pregnant women should get vaccinated against COVID-19, top U.S. medical groups said this week, after the World Health Organization put out conflicting advice on their risk.

Doctors from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) affirmed that pregnant women can get vaccinated if they choose to, and said that there is "no theoretical reason" that the vaccine is dangerous to the mother or fetus, which is in line with the Centers for Disease Control's advice.

"There's really no theoretical reason to believe it's going to cause harm to either the mother, or her unborn child and we're very confident it's going to provide considerable benefits to both the mother and the baby," Dr. Richard Beigi, who sits on ACOG's Immunization, Infectious Disease, and Public Health Preparedness Expert Work Group, told CNN.

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When the two vaccines currently in use in the U.S., from Pfizer and Moderna, were approved in December, health experts told pregnant women to talk with their gynecologist to decide if they should be vaccinated. Due to the high-speed race to find a viable COVID-19 vaccine, pregnant women were not intentionally included in trials — but 23 women in the Pfizer trial did become pregnant after receiving the vaccine, and none had any adverse effects.

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Experts are now saying that pregnant women should get vaccinated when they're eligible with the same restrictions as the general public, which advise those with severe allergies, a history of anaphylactic shock or severe cancer to skip the vaccine for now.

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The ACOG spoke out after WHO initially said that they do not recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated "unless the benefit of vaccinating a pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks," pointing to those who are frontline health workers or people with preexisting conditions.

After an international outcry at WHO's statement, with experts pointing out that there is no evidence of any "vaccine risks," the agency updated it on Thursday to say, "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."

Pregnant women are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. A recent study of more than 400,000 women with COVID-19 found that those who were pregnant were at a 70% higher chance of death than non-pregnant women, nearly three times more likely to require intensive care and more than three times more likely to need a ventilator. Still, the overall risk of death or severe illness from COVID-19 is low.

Pfizer has said that they will test their vaccine on pregnant women in the next few months, The New York Times reported, and Moderna is setting up a monitoring system to track any side effects in women who received their vaccine.

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