Can Pregnant Women Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
At the end of March, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards opened vaccine eligibility to anyone age 18 years or older for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and anyone who is 16 years or older for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Following the guidelines from the FDA, no one is excluded from receiving the vaccine, even patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as there are no medical contradictions to receiving this vaccine. The only contraindications to receiving this vaccine are severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of this vaccine or severe allergic reaction to components of this vaccine.
However, it is important to note that pregnant or lactating women have not been included in the COVID-19 vaccine trials to date. This is not unusual as historically pregnant women have not been included in medical trials, although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine strongly advocate for the inclusion of pregnant women in trials to best determine how to offer quality care for this population. For example, the flu shot was never tested during trials in pregnant women but was determined to be safe based on years of evidence gathered from pregnant patients.
Until now, most of the data we have on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines comes from women who participated in trials who did not know they were pregnant or from women who were aware of their pregnancy, but decided that it was still in their best interest to receive treatment. However, on April 21, the CDC published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that reported on the outcomes of over 35,000 pregnant women who received either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. Of these participants, nearly 4,000 reported data throughout their pregnancy. Their rates of miscarriage, preterm birth, stillbirth and fetal growth restriction were all similar to what was reported in the population before the pandemic. Based on this, the CDC has recommended that coronavirus vaccines be made available to all pregnant women.
Additionally, several recent studies indicate COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in safely creating antibodies in pregnant women. Moreover, vaccinated mothers can pass along protective immunity to newborns through breast milk and the placenta. This research is encouraging for pregnant women who want to protect both themselves and their newborns against COVID-19.
As we look at the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, it can help to understand how the vaccines are made and how they work. The first COVID-19 vaccines are what is known as mRNA, or messenger RNA, vaccines. These vaccines teach the cells in our bodies how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. That immune response produces virus-fighting antibodies that can protect you if the real virus enters your body, and you will have a decreased risk of becoming infected. The vaccine cannot cause you to test positive via nasal swab or cause you to shed the virus.
Pregnant patients should discuss with their physician individual risk factors to make an informed decision about possible vaccinations. Current data from COVID-19 vaccine trials supports the safety and efficacy of these vaccines, and the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks of not being immunized. Ochsner will only recommend and administer vaccines that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has certified as safe and effective for all patients and employees, including our most vulnerable populations. Ultimately, if you have questions or concerns about COVID-19 or possible vaccinations as they relate to your pregnancy, you should speak to your doctor.
What should pregnant women do until they receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Outside of being vaccinated, the best way to protect yourself and your baby from coronavirus is through social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene and wearing a mask.
By limiting social activity, you limit exposure to potentially infected people and crowds. Protective measures, such as canceling events, can help slow down the spread of the virus and, therefore, slow down the rate of an epidemic. This is especially important as we approach the holiday season, which presents many opportunities for mass gatherings and potential infection.
Coronavirus is spread via droplets that enter your nose or mouth. Good hand hygiene can help prevent you from coming into contact with these germs. Make sure you wash your hands properly by following the steps below:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap.
- Lather soap in your hands, applying to the back, front, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Mask wearing is another important step to help prevent these respiratory droplets that are spread between people who are close to each other when speaking, coughing or sneezing. Masks should be worn any time you are in public or in close contact with someone who is not actively in your household.
The CDC offers guidance for cloth face covering best practices.
Cloth face coverings should:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops
- Include multiple layers of fabric
- Allow for breathing without restriction
- Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to the shape
When removing your face covering, make sure you don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. You should always wash your hands after removing your face covering. And make sure to wash and dry your masks regularly.
Ochsner is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all of our patients and will continue to closely monitor any new information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit Ochsner.org/vaccine.
This blog was originally published on December, 14, 2020, and has since been updated.
The information in this blog post is accurate at the time of publication. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change, it's possible that information has changed since being published. While Ochsner Health is trying to keep our blog posts as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC website.