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COVID vaccination rates among pregnant people remain low, despite data that shows the vaccines can prevent the high risk of severe disease during pregnancy.
About 30% of pregnant people are vaccinated, according to the latest CDC data, with only 18% obtaining a dose during pregnancy. Health officials have been tracking the timing of vaccination before and during pregnancy.
The vaccination rates are even lower among pregnant Black people, CDC data shows. About 15% are fully vaccinated, compared with 25% of pregnant Hispanic and Latino people, 34% of pregnant white people, and 46% of pregnant Asian people.
“This puts them at severe risk of severe disease from COVID-19,” Rochelle Walensky, MD, the CDC director, said during a news briefing with the White House COVID-19 Response Team.
“We know that pregnant women are at increased risk of severe disease, of hospitalization and ventilation,” she said. “They’re also at increased risk for adverse events to their baby.”
Those who give birth while infected with COVID-19 had “significantly higher rates” of intensive care unit admission, intubation, ventilation, and death, according to a recent study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.
Walensky said on Tuesday that studies show COVID-19 vaccines can be taken at any time while pregnant or breastfeeding. She noted that the vaccines are safe for both mothers and their babies.
“We’ve actually seen that some antibody from the vaccine traverses to the baby and, in fact, could potentially protect the baby,” she said.
Public health officials say the low vaccination rates can be attributed to caution around the time of pregnancy, concern for the baby, barriers to healthcare, and misinformation promoted online.
“Pregnancy is a precious time. It’s also a time that a lot of women have fear,” Pam Oliver, MD, an obstetrics and gynecology doctor and executive vice president of North Carolina’s Novant Health, told USA Today.
“It is natural to have questions,” she said. “So, let’s talk about what we know, let’s put it in perspective.”