CDC Walks Back Director’s Comments on COVID Vaccines for Pregnant Women

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention walked back a statement by the agency’s director regarding coronavirus vaccines for pregnant women.

CDC head Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House press conference on Friday that the “CDC recommends that pregnant people receive the COVID-19 vaccine.” Walensky cited a new preliminary report from the agency, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, that indicates that there is no evidence Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines pose a risk during pregnancy.

However, the CDC said on Tuesday that its guidelines for pregnant women who wish to receive a coronavirus vaccine have not changed since they were initially released in March. Those guidelines state that “if you are pregnant, you may choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine” but caution pregnant women to weigh the risks posed by vaccination and the virus against one another. The guidelines do not explicitly “recommend” that pregnant women get vaccinated, as Walensky suggested Friday.

“If facing decisions about whether to receive a COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant, people should consider risk of exposure to COVID-19, the increased risk of severe infection while pregnant, the known benefits of vaccination, and the limited but growing evidence about the safety of COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy,” the CDC told CBS in an email.

Other nations have recommended that pregnant women receive coronavirus vaccines. Israel currently urges pregnant women to get vaccinated, while the U.K. government states that “no safety concerns have been identified” among 90,000 pregnant Americans who have received “mainly” Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The apparent mismatch between Walensky’s comments and her agency’s own guidelines comes several months after controversy regarding the CDC’s recommendations to reopen schools. Walensky argued in July 2020 that social-distancing of three feet between students would be sufficient to reopen schools, but argued for distancing of six feet after she became CDC director.

The CDC has since recommended distancing of three feet between students in classrooms.

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