CDC urges COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant people after data shows higher risk of death


FILE – In this Wednesday, June 9, 2021 file photo, A nurse gives a shot of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 to a pregnant woman in Montevideo, Uruguay. Two obstetricians’ groups are now recommending COVID-19 shots for all pregnant women, citing concerns over rising cases and low vaccination rates. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine said vaccinations in tens of thousands of pregnant women have shown the shots are safe and effective. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico, File)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Center for Disease Control has issued an urgent health advisory strongly recommending COVID-19 vaccinations for pregnant people and for those who recently were or plan to soon be pregnant in order to prevent serious illness, death and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

According to the CDC, there have been more than 125,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pregnant people since the end of January 2020, including over 22,000 hospitalizations. Within those cases, a total of 161 deaths have occurred. In August alone, 22 pregnant people died from COVID-19.

The risk of serious, negative outcomes from COVID-19 are greatly increased in pregnant people, says the CDC: “Cases of COVID-19 in symptomatic, pregnant people have a two-fold risk of admission into intensive care and a 70 percent increased risk of death.” Additionally, pregnant people who contract the virus are at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth.

Despite the increase for negative outcomes, only 31 percent of pregnant people have been vaccinated against the virus according to their data, the CDC says.

The report also cites data from the COVID-19-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET) in 2021 that show that “approximately 97 percent of pregnant people hospitalized (either for illness or for labor and delivery) with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection were unvaccinated.”

In the release, the CDC states that “the benefits of vaccination for both pregnant persons and their fetus or infant outweigh known or potential risks” and encourage health care providers to educate pregnant patients on the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19.

“Pregnancy can be both a special time and also a stressful time – and pregnancy during a pandemic is an added concern for families,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky said in a press release Wednesday. “I strongly encourage those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to talk with their healthcare provider about the protective benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe.”

The CDC’s report also notes a large variance in vaccination rates among different racial and ethnic groups and recommends that government and healthcare leaders coordinate efforts to “specifically address populations with lower vaccination coverage and use approaches to reduce racial and ethnic disparities.”

In addition to getting vaccinated as soon as possible, the CDC says that pregnant people or people who have been recently pregnant or plan to become pregnant should continue to practice COVID-19 prevention measures.

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