The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday issued its strongest guidance to date urging pregnant women to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The guidance comes as more than a quarter million cases of Covid in pregnant women have been reported, 22,000 of whom were hospitalized, according to the CDC.
A total of 161 pregnant women have died of Covid, the CDC said, with 22 deaths in August alone.
Yet, less than a third of pregnant women have been vaccinated, the agency reported.
The new notice is meant to strengthen previous CDC guidance issued last month, when the agency first advised pregnant women to get the vaccine.
It's well established that people with underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, are at increased risk for Covid complications.
Pregnancy is also considered an underlying health condition. (The guidance extends to women trying to become pregnant, as well as those who have recently given birth or who may be breastfeeding.)
Pregnant women are at risk for complications of Covid. Overwhelmingly, these complications have occurred in women who were unvaccinated.
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One complication of Covid during pregnancy is preterm birth, which puts a newborn at risk, as well.
In general, premature babies are more likely to have compromised respiratory function because of their underdeveloped lungs. But if a premature baby with underdeveloped lungs ends up with Covid, (likely from exposure to the mother after birth), that newborn is at risk for additional breathing issues.
While it is rare, some of the youngest Covid patients have needed to be placed on ventilators.
“I strongly encourage those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to talk with their health care provider about the protective benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
Communicating the risks of Covid to pregnant women is neither easy nor straightforward, doctors say. Many such women are loathe to get the shots, sometimes falling prey to misinformation about the vaccines' safety and effectiveness.
One recent study, however, showed no increased risk for miscarriage after at least one dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The miscarriage rate of the approximately 2,500 women in the study was about the same as would be expected in the general population.