US health officials stepped up calls for pregnant women to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as new evidence showed no increased risk of miscarriage from the shots.
Women who received messenger RNA Covid-19 vaccines before 20 weeks of pregnancy have no higher risk of miscarriage or other safety concerns than the general population, according to an analysis of an agency registry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its message to recommend shots for pregnant women; it had previously said they were eligible.
The new data is particularly important because pregnant women are at high risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes, such as hospitalisation. However, women who are pregnant have been largely kept out of the initial trials of vaccines because of safety concerns during the products’ initial testing.
Why are coronavirus vaccines – a success story in human innovation – viewed so negatively?
“It has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant and see severe outcomes from Covid-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Anyone who’s breastfeeding or thinking about becoming pregnant should also be immunised, she said.
As the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads across the US, CDC has heard from clinicians that they’re seeing increasing numbers of pregnant women hospitalised with Covid-19, said Sascha Ellington, team lead for emergency preparedness and response in CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health. The agency is keen to get the new data out as quickly as possible and combat any misinformation being spread about vaccine risk, she said.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has also worked to debunk myths about the safety of vaccination, said Martin Tucker, the medical group’s president.
“As Covid-19 cases spike again, pregnant individuals can no longer afford to let their fears prevent them from being vaccinated,” he said.
SCMP Explains: What’s in a Covid-19 vaccine?
Messenger RNA vaccines are made by Moderna and the partnership of Pfizer and BioNTech, which were cleared earliest by the US. While the data didn’t include vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson, the strengthened recommendation for pregnant people applies to all three Covid-19 vaccines currently cleared in the US, Ellington said.
Experts had expected the update, said Tara Smith, an epidemiologist at Kent State University. As the Delta variant surges, the recommendation should give more confidence to those who are pregnant to get the vaccine to protect themselves and their fetuses.
“Vaccines, including those for pertussis and influenza, are routinely given to pregnant persons and are very safe and effective,” she said. “Data continues to come in examining the Covid vaccines and is finding the same thing.”