The CDC now recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all individuals 12 years and older in the United States, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
New recommendations from the CDC urge pregnant and breastfeeding individuals to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and note that pregnant or recently pregnant women are more likely to be severely ill if diagnosed with COVID-19.
Notably, those who are pregnant or were recently pregnant are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people. According to the recommendations, severe illness is defined as illness that requires hospitalization, intensive care, a ventilator or special equipment to breathe, or illness that results in death. Furthermore, the recommendations say pregnant individuals with COVID-19 are at an increased risk of preterm birth and may have an elevated risk for other adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Evidence about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines during pregnancy has been growing, according to the new CDC guidelines. The data suggest that the benefits of vaccination outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy and there is currently no evidence that any vaccines cause fertility problems in women or men.
No safety concerns have been found in animal studies, which have included the vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson. Furthermore, no adverse pregnancy-related outcomes occurred in previous clinical trials that used the same vaccine platform as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and vaccines using the same viral vector have been administered to pregnant individuals in all trimesters of pregnancy.
Early data on mRNA COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy are also reassuring. The first US data on the safety of these vaccines during pregnancy analyzed 3 safety monitoring systems and did not find any safety concerns for pregnant people or their infants. Another report analyzed data from the v-safe pregnancy registry of individuals who received COVID-19 vaccines before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Researchers found no increased risk of miscarriage among people who received mRNA vaccines during pregnancy.
In addition to these findings, data suggest that receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy reduces the risk of infection, according to the CDC. One study in Israel compared pregnant patients who received an mRNA vaccine with those who did not and found that vaccination lowered the risk of infection from SARS-CoV-2.
When counseling pregnant patients on COVID-19 vaccines, it is important to note that the vaccines do not cause infection because none of the COVID-19 vaccines contain the live SARS-CoV-2 virus.
It is also important to note that COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy builds antibodies that could protect the infant, according to the CDC. Antibodies that developed in the body after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine have been found in umbilical cord blood, meaning that vaccination during pregnancy could extend protection to infants, although more data are needed to determine how these antibodies protect the baby.
Based on these data, the CDC now recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all individuals 12 years and older in the United States, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. These recommendations align with those from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as well as the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, both of which encourage vaccination for pregnant individuals.
COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding. CDC; Updated August 11, 2021. Accessed August 11, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html