Two leading organizations that represent obstetricians and gynecologists recommended Friday that anyone who is pregnant should be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) said their recommendation is based on evidence from thousands of people who were pregnant that the vaccines are safe to be used during pregnancy. The associations also cite the country's low vaccination rate and the recent increase in cases.
The associations are also strongly recommending their members "enthusiastically recommend vaccination" to their patients.
"It is clear that pregnant people need to feel confident in the decision to choose vaccination, and a strong recommendation from their obstetrician--gynecologist could make a meaningful difference for many pregnant people," said Dr. J. Martin Tucker, the president of ACOG. "Pregnant individuals should feel confident that choosing COVID-19 vaccination not only protects them, but also protects their families and communities."
The groups had previously said COVID-19 vaccines "should not be withheld" from someone because they are pregnant, but did not recommend they get one. Now, there is a growing body of research that shows the vaccines are safe and effective.
The ACOG guide reminds providers that the willingness to consider vaccination varies by patient; it counsels providers to be aware of historic injustices and systematic racism in the health care profession, and to actively listen and validate concerns and fears.
ACOG also recommends providers continue to care for patients who decide not to be vaccinated and to share resources and encourage the use of prevention methods such as physical distancing and masks.
Neither association recommends one vaccine over the other; however, people who are pregnant should be made aware of the risk of rare blood clots with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
A COVID-19 infection puts pregnant women at an increased risk of severe complications, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization has said the same. And there's a concern that the risk may be even higher with the Delta strain, which is more contagious.
COVID-19 also increases the risk of a preterm birth and may cause other adverse pregnancy outcomes, studies have shown. The guidelines say pregnant women who wait to get vaccinated after their delivery may inadvertently be exposing themselves to an increased risk of severe illness or death.
As the Delta variant of COVID-19 is dominating cases worldwide, several of England's top health officials issued a joint statement Friday that also urged pregnant women to get vaccinated. They pointed to new data that showed that 98% of expectant mothers admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 since May were unvaccinated. The latest data from the UK showed the number of pregnant women admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 has been increasing.
The CDC does not directly recommend the vaccine, but it does say that pregnant women can receive the vaccine.
"Getting vaccinated in a personal choice," the CDC website says. The CDC does recommended that women who are trying to decide if they should get a COVID-19 vaccine should consider their risk of exposure, the risk of severe illness, the known benefits of vaccination, and the limited but growing evidence about the safety of vaccinations during pregnancy.
The CDC's systems that monitor for safety issues have not identified any safety concerns for pregnant people who were vaccinated or for their babies.
So far, the vaccines appear to be equally effective in pregnant individuals. The vaccines offer strong protection against hospitalization and death.
And there is a growing body of research that shows that protective antibodies generated by the vaccine are passed on to the fetus. There is no current COVID-19 vaccines for an infant.