The following was written by Lily Alexander for Public Health Insider, the official blog of Public Health — Seattle & King County. This blog was updated on April 1 to reflect the contributions from the Maternal Coalition and honor the significant work that they have put into developing COVID-19 materials for expecting parents and birthing people. We adapted content from their brochure — developed by Indigenous and Black writers — along with information from the CDC, DOH, Harvard, UW Medicine, and U Chicago Medicine, to summarize the information that exists about pregnant people and the COVID-19 vaccine. Thank you for your contributions.
As of March 17, pregnant people in Washington state are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
If you are pregnant or considering a future pregnancy, you probably have lots of questions around risks and benefits of the vaccine.
We’ve provided answers to some of the questions you might have surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, but please keep in mind that our knowledge is still evolving around the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy. For more personalized advice, reach out to your health care provider to discuss your options around the vaccine.
WHY GET VACCINATED IN THE FIRST PLACE?
COVID-19 is dangerous, and particularly so for pregnant individuals.
Pregnant people are at an increased risk of severe illness and/or hospitalization from COVID-19. In several studies, pregnant COVID patients were found to be more likely to end up in the intensive care unit (ICU) when compared to non-pregnant COVID patients.
Individuals who experience severe COVID-19 symptoms have also been shown to have a higher risk of complications during and after pregnancy.
The COVID-19 vaccine acts as a form of protection by preventing severe illness from COVID-19 and reducing the risk of pregnancy complications.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE SAFETY OF COVID-19 VACCINES IN PEOPLE WHO ARE PREGNANT?
The CDC has indicated that the vaccine may be administered to those who are pregnant and there are currently no known risksof receiving the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant.
Like many new medications and vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines were studied in pregnant animals and these studies did not show any complications related to fertility or reproduction from the vaccine.
However, data in pregnant individuals remains limited — pregnant and lactating people were not specifically included in the initial clinical trials for the three vaccines. Clinical trials that look specifically at the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people are currently underway.
In the meantime, the CDC has been monitoring side effects data following vaccination through their smartphone app, V-safe. More than 60,000 pregnant have received the COVID-19 vaccine since December 2020, and so far, the CDC is not reporting any safety concerns or difference in rates of complications.
Data aside, the most important thing is choosing what feels safe for you and your loved ones.
IF I HAVE DOUBTS, WHAT TYPES OF QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK MY HEALTHCARE PROVIDER?
Research on the vaccine and pregnancy is still ongoing, so it’s understandable if you still have questions. And for some people —especially in Black, Indigenous, and disability communities — present day racism and discrimination in our medical system and histories of medical trauma have broken trust. Talk to your health care providers and other supports in your life about your questions and concerns.
According to the Maternal Coalition — a local organization that supports birth rights, birth advocacy, and perinatal mental health advocacy for communities of color in King County — some topic areas to discuss with your provider might include:
- Your exposure to COVID-19, risk levels to you and your family, and what precautions you’re taking
- What is known about the vaccine: how well it works to protect you, the known side effects, and data on safety of COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy
If you do not have a health care provider, we can help connect you. Give us a call at 1-800-756-5437 or email us at: email@example.com.
CAN I GET THE COVID-19 VACCINE IF I’M BREAST/CHEST FEEDING?
People who are breast/chest feeding may choose whether to be vaccinated. At this time, COVID-19 vaccines have not been shown to be a risk to lactating people or the infant, according to the CDC.
And, in a study published just last week, the authors found that pregnant individuals who had received the COVID-19 vaccine passed protective antibodies on to their babies. This could offer additional protection to newborns.
WHAT ABOUT IF I’M LOOKING TO GET PREGNANT? SHOULD I GET THE COVID VACCINE?
There is no evidence that these vaccines affect future fertility.
No signs of infertility appeared in the initial animal studies, and no loss of fertility has been reported among trial participants or those who have received the vaccines since their authorization.
HOW DO I ACCESS THE VACCINE?
Right now in King County, the number of people eligible for vaccination far outpaces the supply of vaccine. Getting vaccinated will become easier as health care providers receive more doses.
Some options for scheduling your vaccination appointment:
- Call your doctor’s office or health care provider to see if they have available vaccination appointments.
- Search Vaccine Locator for a list of possible vaccination locations: vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov
- If you need language interpretation, call the Washington state’s COVID-19 Assistance Hotline: Dial 1-800-525-0127 or 1-888-856-5816, then press #. Available Monday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Tuesday-Sunday and observed state holidays 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. For language interpretation, state your preferred language when you are connected. Phone support is also available from the Public Health COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977, 8am-7pm.
- For residents of south King County, you can register directly for an appointment at one of our vaccination sites at Auburn and Kent: kingcounty.gov/covid/registration.
Tell the CDC about your experience with the vaccine: Data on the effects of vaccination during pregnancy are still limited. The CDC is inviting people who received COVID-19 vaccination in the periconception period (within 30 days before last menstrual period) or during pregnancy to participate in the v-safe COVID-19 Vaccine Pregnancy Registry. If you are interested in enrolling in this optional registry, visit the CDC’s v-safe COVID-19 Vaccine Pregnancy Registry page.
- THE CONVERSATION: Between Us, About Us Series – Pregnancy and the COVID-19 Vaccine
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Information about COVID-19 Vaccines for People who Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding
- Maternal Coalition – Pregnancy and the COVID-19 Vaccine
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – Coronavirus, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients
- UW Medicine – Should You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine If You’re Pregnant?
- U Chicago Medicine – COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy: What you need to know if you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding