The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory on Wednesday urging women who are pregnant, recently pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The CDC "strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks," the advisory reads. The agency noted that compared to symptomatic people who are not pregnant, symptomatic pregnant people have a two-fold increased risk of ICU admission, and a 70% increased risk of death.
"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 Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. "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."
In addition to the increased risk of severe illness or death for pregnant and recently pregnant people, the CDC says that "there is an increased risk for adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes" – including preterm birth, stillbirth and "increased risk for admission to the neonatal ICU."
"We are fortunate now to have extraordinary safety data with all of these vaccines," Dr. Walensky said at a White House COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday. "We know that pregnant women are at increased risk of severe disease, of hospitalization, and ventilation. They're also at increased risk for adverse events to their baby."
"We now have data that demonstrates that vaccines in whatever time in pregnancy or lactating that they're given are actually safe and effective and have no adverse events to mom or to baby," Dr. Walensky added. "And we've actually seen that, in fact, some antibody from the vaccine traverses to the baby and, in fact, could potentially protect the baby."
As of mid-September, only 31% of pregnant people were fully vaccinated before or during their pregnancy, according to the CDC. As of Monday, there have been more than 125,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in pregnant people, with more than 22,000 hospitalizations and 161 deaths, and data shared by the CDC says that 97% of pregnant people hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus cases are unvaccinated.
In August alone, 22 pregnant women died from COVID-19, the worst single month yet of the pandemic, according to the CDC.
"Vaccination coverage is highest among Asian people who are pregnant (45.7%), but lower among Hispanic or Latino pregnant people (25%), and lowest among Black pregnant people (15.6%)," the CDC said.