Comparing the options: COVID-19 vaccine safe for pregnant women

Maternal-fetal medicine expert answering KSAT viewer questions about pregnancy in the pandemic

A KSAT viewer asked for a comparison of the safety of the available vaccines, including newer ones like Johnson and Johnson’s. A local maternal-fetal medicine expert weighed in.
A KSAT viewer asked for a comparison of the safety of the available vaccines, including newer ones like Johnson and Johnson’s. A local maternal-fetal medicine expert weighed in.

SAN ANTONIO – Last week, KSAT launched a platform where viewers can ask their questions about pregnancy and infertility during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, we focused on the topic viewers asked about the most -- getting the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy.

One viewer, in particular, asked for a comparison of the safety of the available vaccines, including newer ones, like Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine.

First off, in the medical world, the consensus is clear.

“We know the risks for mom related to COVID-19 are substantial. We are in the middle of a pandemic. We are advising pregnant women to get the vaccine whenever it’s available to them,” said Dr. Patrick Ramsey, the maternal-fetal medicine director working at both University Hospital and UT Health San Antonio.

He said doctors have the most information about the vaccines that have been available the longest.

“We have some experience now with the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine. Over 10,000 women have received it, and we have not seen any significant pregnancy complications related to the vaccines,” Ramsey said.

San Antonio doctor speaks about getting the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant

When he has patients who are concerned, he said it’s important to explain how the vaccines work and what’s in them.

“The first thing I tell them is that this is not a live virus. It’s just a recipe called mRNA in the vaccine that tells our body how to make a protein. Then, our body makes an immune response to that protein that gives us that protection for both mom and for baby potentially,” Ramsey said.

The most common question Ramsey says he gets about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine makeup is whether that mRNA affects the body’s DNA.

“It does not get incorporated into our body at all. In fact, mRNA is very unstable inside the body and usually gets degraded really quickly,” he said.

Pregnant KSAT viewers wanted to know more about the newer Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which was recently authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Yes, it’s come out and said it’s safe. We all believe it’s going to be a safe vaccine,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey explained there is not as much research available on this vaccine yet because it was released later than Pfizer’s or Moderna’s.

“If that’s a concern, go toward one of the ones that have been out since December or January,” Ramsey suggested.

The Johnson and Johnson is a more traditionally made vaccine. It is what’s called a viral vector vaccine, just like the ones used for the flu or measles, which are always recommended for pregnant women during any trimester.

“Again, the type of vaccines that these are, are not live virus vaccines and should be safe to use in pregnancy,” Ramsey said.

Soon, evidence will be even more concrete as companies begin vaccine trials specifically for pregnant women.

“We’re fortunate here at UT and UHS that we’re going to be part of the Pfizer pregnancy trial. We’re in the final stages of getting approval from our institution to initiate hopefully in the next few weeks,” Ramsey said.

He said he believes -- with an international study being done in hundreds of centers across the world -- they could have results about safety and efficacy as soon as mid-summer.

Pregnancy in a pandemic: Let’s tackle the stress of pregnancy and infertility together, as a community

Over the next several months, we will continue to get your questions answered. If you’d like to submit a question or comment, you can do so here:


About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.