Q&A: Medical director for University Health gives insight on COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy

Appointments are required to receive the vaccine from University Health

Storyblocks: Pregnant woman with hands on stomach talking to obstetrician

Are you currently pregnant or planning to be pregnant soon?

Dr. Patrick Ramsey, Medical Director for Inpatient OB services at University Health answered commonly asked questions for women that are pregnant and want to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

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Starting Monday, March 29, all adults are now eligible to sign up for COVID-19 vaccination appointments in Texas.

The interview with Dr. Ramsey was taken on Feb. 8, 2021.

The WHO recently reversed their recommendation that pregnant women not get the Moderna vaccine, and took a similar position on the Pfizer vaccine. Why is that?

“The World Health Organization did release a statement last week that they recommended pregnant women not receive the maternal vaccine and they reverse that mainly because they had a lot of pressure from other organizations, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine, basically kind of supporting that pregnant women are at risk for the COVID-19 infection and have higher risk for adverse outcomes,” said Dr. Ramsey. “So they basically change her statement that we don’t believe the vaccine has any potential for harm, although there is no data that pregnant women should be eligible to receive the vaccine. Basically, we just don’t have a lot of information about the safety specifically and pregnant women, the studies that were done and over 30,000 individuals worldwide for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines didn’t include pregnant women for the most part. So we really don’t know safety in that specific population. We are planning a study here at University Hospital and UT Health to look at the Pfizer vaccine.”

Even without a formal study, are there women who were pregnant and got the vaccine? Did they have adverse reactions?

“There were a small number of women in the Pfizer study that were pregnant or became pregnant, and we haven’t seen any adverse outcomes in those women,” Dr. Ramsey said. “And we have mentioned, there have been a lot of women who have received the vaccine who are pregnant or lactating, and we have not seen any adverse outcomes for their pregnancy related to the vaccination.”

Should pregnant women get the COVID-19 vaccine anyway?

“We are recommending that pregnant women do receive the vaccine for COVID-19, either Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine or the other vaccines that are eventually coming out,” said Dr. Ramsey. “And the reason for that is we know that pregnant women have a higher risk for complications in pregnancy, higher risk of getting more sick, higher risk of being in the intensive care unit, needing to be on a ventilator. And we really want to avoid those. So the vaccine should be safe. We have no reason to believe this vaccine would cause any problems about the risk of having covid-19 and pregnancy or substantial.”

Is the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine a live virus vaccine?

“Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine are live virus vaccines, basically there are what’s called mRNA,” said Dr. Ramsey. “It’s like giving your body a recipe to make a protein that’s part of the virus that your body will respond to and make an immune response to give you protection. So it’s not a live virus at all.”

Are pregnant women more likely to get COVID-19?

“The good news is we’ve had almost a year of experience with COVID-19 to date worldwide, and we have learned that pregnant women do not appear to be at higher risk for developing COVID-19 if they’re pregnant,” said Dr. Ramsey. " So that’s good news for women who are pregnant today.”

What are the risks to mother and baby from COVID-19?

“We know from the mother’s standpoint there’s an increased risk for disease severity, so moms are more likely to have to go to the intensive care unit to have worse respiratory disease, potentially need to be intubated to support their life,” said Dr. Ramsey. “But from the baby’s standpoint, we haven’t seen any real clear evidence that there is a high risk of early delivery, adverse outcomes for the baby itself, either while inside or after delivery. So kind of a mixed, mixed blessing related to the effects on mom and baby.”

If a woman comes into University Hospital in labor and is COVID-positive, can a support person be with her?

“Yes, so a woman, if she is proven to be COVID-19 by testing when she comes in or comes in symptomatic with COVID-19, we do allow a support person to come into the labor and delivery unit with her,” Dr. Ramsey said. “That person, however, has to stay in the room with her for the entire course of her hospitalization, is not able to leave the hospital during her stay.”

If women give birth while they are COVID-positive, do they have to stay away from their babies?

“We are able to keep mom with the baby if mom is COVID-19 positive, we make sure she uses the right precautions,” said Dr. Ramsey. “She’s wearing masks, uses hand sanitization to prevent any potential exposure to the baby. But we do try to we know that’s very important to keep mom with baby in that postpartum period. So we do everything we can to make that happen, even if she is covid-19 positive.”

Can COVID-positive mothers breastfeed?

“Yes, it’s really important for moms to consider breastfeeding,” Dr. Ramsey advised. “There are lots of amazing benefits to breastfeeding, giving babies the immune protection against other diseases, including COVID-19. So if mom is COVID-19 positive, we strongly encourage breastfeeding. But again, mom will wear a mask to hand sanitization before and after she breastfeeds just to make sure she minimizes the risk for her baby.”

What effect does the vaccine have on a woman’s fertility?

“We have no evidence that the vaccine causes any problems for women to be able to get pregnant,” said Dr. Ramsey. “Certainly we’ll learn more about the vaccine as we have more experience over time. But today, there’s no suggestion of any problems for patients to be able to get pregnant after getting the vaccine.”

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Have any questions? Read the University Health FAQ page on topics about appointments, preparing for your vaccination and how to receive notifications about vaccine availability.

KSAT Community operates in partnership with University Health, Energy Transfer and Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union.

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