HARTFORD, CT — With recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control as to the safety of vaccines for pregnant women, medical providers who work with expectant mothers are encouraging them to get vaccinated to prevent serious illness.
“The idea of giving vaccinations to pregnant women is not new by any means and it’s something that we do all the time,” Dr. Matthew L. Saidel, chief medical officer of Women’s Health Connecticut said. “We have lots of studies and data that show there is no increased risk in doing this and pregnant women.”
The CDC recently released new guidance that pregnant women are at increased risk of severe illness if they do contract the coronavirus. A linked study in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed more than 35,000 pregnant participants between the ages of 16 and 54. It concluded, “Preliminary findings did not show obvious safety signals among pregnant persons who received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.”
While the current crop of vaccines is new, Saidel emphasized that the vaccines have been in development for over 10 years. Until now, there was no significant respiratory outbreak to lead to a significant trial.
“The technology is not new, it’s just the virus they were applied to is new,” Saidel said. “So, we knew pretty well that these vaccines were going to be very effective.
Although the vaccines were not initially studied specifically on pregnant women during clinical trials, Saidel said a history of registries and records showed no apparent side effects that harmed pregnancy.
“The vaccine, whether it be J&J, Pfizer or Moderna, is eliminated so quickly from the body that it doesn’t even have time to cross the afterbirth and placenta into the baby,” Saidel said. “So there’s no issue with it crossing over to the baby or fetus. It has enough time for the immune system to recognize them.”
And the benefits of vaccination pass from mother to baby, Saidel said.
“The antibodies that are produced by us in response to the vaccine do cross through the placenta so when the babies are born they have antibodies on board,” Saidel said. “The antibodies then continued to be passed to the baby through the breastmilk.”
Many mothers throughout the state have taken the initiative to receive their vaccine to establish a form of defense for their unvaccinated children.
“This has been a really scary time, a scary time to be pregnant and a scary time to be a mother to a newborn and an infant,” said Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Windham. “The notion that I could potentially get the protection for myself and then pass it along was really compelling.”
Dr. Marlaine Jean-Miller, an OB-GYN in the WHC network with offices in Hartford and Farmington, said she has been determined to make her pregnant patients feel safe and empowered in establishing their choice to become vaccinated. Miller discusses the benefits of vaccination among her patients.
“We talk about what are the risks that we have seen so far from those women who were vaccinated from earlier on,” Miller said. “And the data that we’re gaining right now, fortunately, is saying those women are actually doing just fine. Their babies are having overall good outcomes and they haven’t been able to find anything linking to obvious abnormalities that happen to those women when they get vaccinations.”
WHC currently has about 10,000 expectant mothers in its network. As part of its ongoing response to the pandemic, it has incorporated stronger safety measures such as vaccinated practitioners, symptom checks and access to COVID-19 testing before a patient is admitted to labor and delivery.
“We know that pregnancy is a high risk time,” Miller said. “If someone does have COVID-19, you would want to know that in advance so that you can tailor your care to give them the best outcome possible.”
Flexer said she wished she had more resources about vaccine safety during her recent pregnancy as she faced a lot of worries during the duration of her term.
“It was a fear of just about everything, everywhere I went,” Flexer said. “Even just going to the doctor’s office, even though the health care provider that I went to was doing everything they could to keep people safe. There was a lot of anxiety, especially when there was a lot that was unknown.”