The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has given its emergency use approval of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for use in individuals 16+ years and 18+ years respectively, and distribution is underway. The FDA states both vaccines are very effective with few side effects. Now the question is, are COVID-19 vaccines safe for pregnant women and breastfeeding moms?
COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy Recommendation
The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend pregnant and lactating women consult with their doctors about getting the vaccine. While there are no studies specifically on pregnant women, the Pfizer and M oderna vaccines do not contain the live virus. Rather, it induces antibodies to protect the mother, and at the present time there is no reason to expect adverse effects on the pregnancy or the fetus.
The CDC recommends when considering whether or not to be vaccinated, pregnant women and their healthcare providers should consider the level of COVID-19 community transmission, the patient’s personal risk of contracting COVID-19, the risks of COVID-19 to the patient and potential risks to her fetus, the efficacy of the vaccine, the side effects of the vaccine, and the lack of data about the vaccine during pregnancy.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) updated their guidance to doctors July 30, ACOG recommends that all eligible persons, including pregnant and lactating individuals, receive a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine series. Obstetrician-gynecologists and other women’s health care practitioners should lead by example by being vaccinated and encouraging eligible patients to be vaccinated as well.
Side Effects of COVID 19 Vaccinations
Side effects can occur with COVID-19 vaccine use in pregnant women, similar to those expected among non-pregnant people. Most study participants for both the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines experienced mild side effects similar to influenza-like illness symptoms following vaccination. Most of these symptoms resolved by day 3 after vaccination for both vaccines.
Side effects with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine were generally mild and transient, resolving in 1-2 days following vaccination among safety study participants.
How MRNA Vaccines Work
Pfizer (with BioNTech) developed mRNA “vaccines” and it became available Dec. 11, 2020. This type of gene therapy uses the messenger genetic material which shuttles information from our DNA to cells in the body and tells the cells what to do. In this case, the message is to make coronavirus spike protein. That foreign substance then activates the immune system to be prepared to fight the spike. These CDC pages explain what is in the Pfizer shot and theModerna shot.
Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine is a vector type shot which injects pieces of the virus (vectors), in this case just the spike protein, not a whole virus capable of causing disease. It has the advantage of needing just one shot and more convenient refrigeration. Note the use of the J&J vaccine was paused from April 13 to April 23 so the FDA and CDC could investigate the six cases where women developed blood clots after the shot. It was ultimately decided that because the covid virus itself can produce clots it was okay to resume the J&J shot. (Apparently the “spike protein” is the cause of clots in both the disease and vaccine side effects.)
Preventing COVID-19 During Pregnancy
In general, pregnant women can be more susceptible to infections, but there has not been any hard evidence suggesting that Coronavirus is more easily transmitted during pregnancy or exactly how COVID-19 affects pregnancy. Best advice now is to protect yourself and the rest of your family from COVID-19 and other illnesses via prevention. That means social distancing, wearing masks and practicing good hygiene.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 is a lower respiratory tract infection, which means that most of the symptoms are felt in the chest and lungs. That’s different from colds that bring on an upper respiratory tract infection, where you get a runny nose and sinus congestion. Click to learn more about COVID-19 Symptoms
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