Coronavirus: CDC calls for ‘urgent action’ to convince more pregnant people to get vaccinated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday recommended “urgent action” to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in pregnant people, those who were recently pregnant, people who are trying to become pregnant and people who might get pregnant in the future.

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The agency began recommending COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant people in August, citing evidence that showed no increased risk of miscarriage among people who had gotten their shots. However, officials said that as of Sept. 18, only 31% of pregnant people had been fully vaccinated, and “significant disparities” exist in populations based on race and ethnicity.

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“Accumulating data provide evidence of both the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy,” officials said Wednesday in a health alert. “The benefits of vaccination for both pregnant persons and their fetus/infant outweigh known or potential risks. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can prevent severe illness, death, and pregnancy complications related to COVID-19.”

Pregnant people who experience symptomatic COVID-19 infections have a 70% increased risk of death when compared to their non-pregnant symptomatic counterparts, according to the CDC. They’re also twice as likely to need admission to an intensive care unit, invasive ventilation or other critical care, officials said.

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“Pregnant people with COVID-19 are also at increased risk for preterm birth and some data suggest an increased risk for other adverse pregnancy complications and outcomes, such as preeclampsia, coagulopathy, and stillbirth, compared with pregnant people without COVID-19,” according to the CDC. The agency added that newborns whose mothers have COVID-19 have an increased risk for admission to neonatal ICUs. Pregnant people have also been very rarely found to have transmitted COVID-19 infections to their newborns, officials said.

The CDC urged public health officials and healthcare providers to do more to communicate the benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccination to pregnant people.

“In addition, pregnant people should continue to follow all recommended prevention measures and should seek care immediately for any symptoms of COVID-19,” officials said.

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As of Tuesday morning, the last date for which data was available, nearly 56% of the U.S. population, or 185.2 million people, has been fully vaccinated, including about 67% of adults, according to the CDC. About 64% of Americans, or 213.7 million people, have received at least one dose of any of the available vaccines, including 77% of adults, according to the agency.

Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed over 43.2 million COVID-19 infections and reported more than 694,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Over 233 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, resulting in over 4.7 million deaths, according to the university.