Should pregnant people get the coronavirus vaccine?

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Photo via Ernesto Andrade/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

As the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine begins distribution in the U.S. and the U.K., folks are wondering if it is safe for pregnant people to join the lines of individuals awaiting their first dose.

None of the coronavirus vaccines currently in development, including the Pfizer version, have been tested on pregnant people. Pregnant people are at heightened risk from COVID-19, but without testing, it’s difficult to know if the vaccine could pose a risk to their fetus’ health. 

Pregnant people are typically excluded from vaccine trials in an effort to make performing the trials more simple, according to Denise Jamieson, a chair of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine. “It’s easier to exclude pregnant women because when you include pregnant women, you have to be concerned about both the woman’s health as well as the development of the fetus and baby,” she told NPR. 

Typically, pregnant people are not given “live” vaccines because “there’s theoretical risk that the live virus could be passed and it infects the fetus,” according to Jamieson. That said, very few issues have arisen regarding vaccines and pregnant people in the past.

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, Jamieson sees no need for concern. She predicts that the vaccine should be “very safe in pregnancy.” The only issue she foresees is the potential for vaccinated pregnant people to develop a fever, which they should treat with acetaminophen.

If pregnant people were to avoid getting the coronavirus vaccine, it would exclude a large part of the high-risk and essential population. Three-fourths of healthcare workers are women, according to NPR, including a whopping 85% of nurses. Add to this the heightened risk COVID-19 presents to pregnant women, and they should—conceivably—be near the front of the line for the vaccine. 

Despite the lack of testing, pregnant people are welcome to receive the coronavirus vaccine. While American officials advise pregnant women to consider the potential risk to themselves and their fetuses, the British health agency is giving far more stringent advice. It recommends that pregnant people avoid the vaccine, as well as anyone considering getting pregnant or who may be pregnant already.

It also recommends that anyone planning to get pregnant wait until at least two months after they receive the second dose to do so and suggests that anyone who becomes pregnant following their first dose of the vaccine wait until their pregnancy is finished before receiving the second dose. 

Breastfeeding women, on the other hand, should feel no concerns over getting the vaccine, according to the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. If you are pregnant, or considering getting pregnant, the best route is to check with your doctor. They can help you assess your risk and decide if receiving the vaccine is a safe option for you and your baby.

Read more on the coronavirus vaccine:

Sources: Poynter, NPR, Stat

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