Pregnant and thinking of getting the COVID-19 vaccine? An expert from UAB weighs in

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Overall, health professionals recommend pregnant women take the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo via Unsplash

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, many expecting mothers are concerned with the safety of the vaccine. In a recent press conference, Warner Huh, M.D., chair of UAB’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, answered questions regarding this topic.

The general consensus: it’s safe

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Dr. Carlie Stein Sommerville, UAB pediatrician, administers a vaccine. Photo via Carlie Stein Sommerville

Dr. Huh confirmed there are multiple groups, including the CDC, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), that openly recommend the COVID-19 vaccination be offered to pregnant women, women who are lactating or breastfeeding, and also women who are thinking about getting pregnant. 

To break that sentence down to a simple statement: the largest professional societies and organizations that interact in women’s health recommend taking the COVID-19 vaccine for those who fall into this group of people.

Although, Dr. Huh emphasized this is a shared decision between you and your partner. It’s also something he recommends talking over with your physician.

Let’s talk about the risk/benefit factor

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Women who contract COVID-19 while pregnant could experience severe difficulties in during their pregnancy. Photo via UAB

Dr. Huh brought up several points to consider regarding the risk/benefit factor associated with taking the vaccine while you’re pregnant.

First, getting COVID-19 while you’re pregnant could lead to severe complications. It can result in admission to the ICU which will put negative effects on the baby. According to Dr. Huh, vaccines are the ultimate form of prevention from the disease. 

“When you look at the risk/benefit ratio of getting the vaccine and not getting the vaccine, I would say most women’s health care provides and obstetricians are recommending vaccination, mainly because the risk of getting sick can severely affect the woman and the fetus.”

Warner Huh, M.D., chair of UAB’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Fact vs. fiction

Dr. Huh acknowledges the gray area in limited data. However, from what health professionals do know, no safety concerns arise for pregnant women who take the vaccine and nor does any current evidence suggest it will affect babies who breastfeed.

“I think it’s important for listeners to know there’s still a lot that we don’t know and there are ongoing studies looking at the pregnant population. But, again, in balance we think the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.”

Warner Huh, M.D., chair of UAB’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

The ASRM backs up Dr. Huh’s advice via a statement on January 27, 2021. While concern lies in the fact that no pregnant women were enrolled in the prospective clinical vaccine trials for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, they’ve still concluded the risk is low.

“…after carefully considering the existing data relating to the dangers of COVID-19 during pregnancy, the risks of the mRNA vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer, and our understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms involved, we stand by our recommendation that pregnant women and those seeking to become pregnant should be vaccinated.”

American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Position on COVID Vaccine Use in Pregnant Women

So, when will the vaccine be available to pregnant women?

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Hopefully, the vaccine rollout will be revised to include pregnant women. Photo via Unsplash

Now lies the issue of actually receiving the vaccine. Effective Monday, January 18, the COVID-19 vaccine became available statewide to Alabamians 75 years and older and to first responders including firefighters and law enforcement.

It’s likely the rollout strategy will be revised to include pregnant women.

“We’re still in the fairly nascent stages of vaccinating the general public. I wouldn’t surprise me whatsoever that in the upcoming weeks, months perhaps, that the prioritization of vaccines, particularly where pregnant women fit, gets revisited both by the CDC as well as hopefully the Alabama Department of Public Health.”

Warner Huh, M.D., chair of UAB’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Getting vaccinated is a personal choice for people who are pregnant. Find more information on the subject from UAB the CDC, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)