Despite the risk of severe disease and death, about two-thirds of pregnant women are not getting vaccinated against COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.1

“Despite the known risks of COVID-19, as of Sept. 18, 2021, 31% of pregnant women were fully vaccinated before or during their pregnancy,” the CDC emphasized. “In addition, there are racial and ethnic disparities in vaccination coverage for pregnant people. Healthcare providers should communicate the risks of COVID-19, the benefits of vaccination, and information on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy … as soon as possible.”

Recently, the CDC urged vaccination for women who are pregnant or recently pregnant, including those who are lactating. Likewise, women who are trying to become pregnant now or who might become pregnant in the future should be vaccinated.

“CDC strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks,” the agency reports.

As of Sept. 27, 2021, more than 125,000 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in pregnant women, resulting in about 22,000 hospitalizations and 161 deaths. In August 2021, 22 pregnant women died of COVID-19, the highest monthly total yet in CDC surveillance. Mirroring the pandemic in the general population, 97% of pregnant women who acquire SARS-CoV-2 and are hospitalized — either for medical care or delivery — are unvaccinated.

“In addition to the risks of severe illness and death for pregnant and recently pregnant [women], there is an increased risk for adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, including preterm birth and admission of their neonates to an intensive care unit,” the CDC reported.

In addition, vaccination coverage for pregnant women differs by race and ethnicity, with vaccination coverage lowest for non-Hispanic Blacks (16%). The CDC called for increased focus on such populations with lower vaccination coverage, using approaches that are “tailored, culturally responsive, and linguistically appropriate” to communicate the benefits of vaccination.

Compared to nonpregnant women who acquire symptomatic COVID-19, pregnant women who develop symptomatic infection are at a two-fold increased risk of requiring intensive care unit admission and at a 70% increased risk of death, the CDC stated. “Communicate accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines, respond to gaps in information, and confront misinformation with evidence-based messaging from credible sources,” the CDC urged. “For example, there is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.”

REFERENCE

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant people to prevent serious illness, deaths, and adverse pregnancy outcomes from COVID-19. Published Sept. 29, 2021. https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/2021/han00453.asp