AUG 19, 2021 12:01 PM PDT

COVID-19 Vaccines Seem Well-Tolerated by Pregnant Women

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Trials of COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have suggested that the vaccines are safe for pregnant women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that everyone over 12 years old, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, trying to conceive or planning on it in the future, get vaccinated for COVID-19. In a survey of over 17,000 pregnant and lactating individuals who had received a COVID-19 vaccine, there was no indication that symptoms or reactions to the vaccine were any different from people who'd been vaccinated but were not pregnant. The findings have been reported in JAMA Network Open.

Cropped from a colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell (blue) infected with a variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (UK B.1.1.7; purple), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. / Credit: NIAID

“There were not any increased reactions in pregnant individuals beyond what is expected from a vaccine,” said senior study author Dr. Linda Eckert, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The CDC has estimated that only about 23 percent of pregnant Americans have been vaccinated as of August 14, 2021. Among Black and Latina women, the rate is even lower (11.4 and 19 percent, respectively).

The study authors are hoping to provide more reassuring information to pregnant individuals, and encourage them to get vaccinated.

“Not only is the vaccine safe, our research shows just how well the vaccine is tolerated in pregnant individuals, which is a common fear I hear from my patients.  In contrast, we are continuing to learn more and more about just how dangerous COVID-19 infections are in pregnancy," noted Eckert. Pregnant women are more likely to have severe COVID-19.

Lead study author Dr. Alisa Kachikis began to survey women who were pregnant or lactating, and those who were not in January 2021. The survey asked about their experience after they'd gotten at least one dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of March, 17,525 individuals had participated. There are now about 20,000 people in the study, and you can also enroll in the survey here.

About 62 percent of people in the study had received the Pfizer vaccine, the majority live in the United States, 44 percent were pregnant, 38 percent were lactating, and 15 percent had plans to get pregnant in the future.

Most people reported feeling pain at the injection site (91 percent) and 31 percent were fatigued afterwards. About 5 to 7 percent noticed a decrease in milk supply after the vaccination.The study results were positive, overall. “Pregnant people do well with the vaccine,” added Kachikis.

The researchers are hopeful that a Phase 3 trial for pregnant people might be underway soon. This study suggested that pregnant women should be a part of clinical trials for other vaccines that may be relevant in the future, noted Eckert. They also want to expand this study to include more socioeconomic groups.

Other research has suggested that vaccinated pregnant women give their children an added benefit: COVID-19 antibodies have been passed on to babies during pregnancy by vaccinated mothers.

Sources: University of Washington School of Medicine/UW Medicine, JAMA Network Open

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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