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Pregnant women getting mixed messages about COVID-19 vaccine

SAN ANTONIO – It is one of the biggest COVID-19 vaccine questions: Should pregnant women get it?

The American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology is recommending it for all pregnant women, but the World Health Organization has reservations.

“In the interim, WHO recommends not to use mRNA-1273 in pregnancy, unless the benefit of vaccinating a pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks, such as in health workers at high risk of exposure and pregnant women with co-morbidities placing them in a high-risk group for severe COVID-19,” the WHO said in a statement this week saying.

In other words, unless a woman is already at risk for other co-morbidities, WHO will not recommend the vaccines. As well, Pfizer also feels it cannot recommend it either. The reasoning is not based on data, but rather the lack of data.

Dr. Alvaro Moreira, an assistant professor of neonatology at UT Health San Antonio said of the existing vaccine clinical trials, “Where we have a total now over 35,000 individuals, it was all done in a healthy population. None of the individuals who were in those trials were pregnant.”

As a result, there’s no safety data for Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines in pregnant and breast-feeding women.

The American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology is standing by its recommendation, nevertheless, and Moreira said what we do know should encourage any pregnant or breast-feeding mom to get in line for a vaccine.

“The evidence to date shows is that compared to women who are not pregnant, they are at higher risk for requiring intensive care unit admission, mechanical ventilation, and death, although this is a rare occasion,” he said.

That higher risk of severe illness is joined by other complications, too, such as pre-eclampsia, which if combined with COVID-19, can make any clotting more risky since it causes high blood pressure. As well, if a pregnant woman has any of the co-morbidities such as obesity and diabetes, the risk of death increases exponentially.

Vaccine makers do plan to correct this lack of data in two regards.

Moderna plans to establish a registry to begin studying the outcomes of pregnant women and their infants who got the vaccine. Pfizer is among those planning to start an actual maternal vaccine study, to get the data moms want and the WHO says it must have to recommend the shots.

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