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UPMC, DOH Emphasize Safety, Importance of COVID-19 Vaccine during Pregnancy

Event highlights vaccination for pregnant Pennsylvanians, combats misinformation

January 11, 2022

Only 30 to 35 percent of pregnant people in the U.S. are vaccinated against COVID-19 in the U.S., recent studies suggest.

On Tuesday, representatives from UPMC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health highlighted the importance of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy and urged those with questions about the vaccines to contact their health care provider.

“The stakes are high during this pandemic, and with the low COVID-19 vaccine rates we are seeing in pregnant populations, many parents are opting for what feels safe rather than what is safe,” said Dr. Chavone Momon-Nelson, chair of the OB/GYN department at UPMC Carlisle. “The consequences for remaining unvaccinated can be dire.”

The event at UPMC Harrisburg outlined the reasons to get vaccinated and the increased risks the pregnant population may face due to the virus.

Among the important takeaways:

  • A barrier:  Misinformation is a persistent barrier leading to vaccine hesitancy during pregnancy
  • Added protection:  COVID-19 infection poses a potential risk to those who are pregnant and to their unborn children. Vaccines offer important protection to reduce the risk of adverse outcomes from the virus
  • Careful review:  A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) review of 40,000 pregnancies found that COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy was not associated with increased risk for preterm or small-for-gestational-age births
  • Get fully vaccinated, boosted:  Getting vaccinated—whether for the initial shots or the booster dose—helps you stay safe and healthy during pregnancy

The CDC review found that those with symptomatic COVID-19 during pregnancy have a more than two-fold increased risk for intensive care unit admission and invasive ventilation, and a 70 percent increased risk for death, compared with non-pregnant women with symptomatic infections.

COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to become pregnant, or are interested in becoming pregnant in the future, said Dr. Denise Johnson, Pennsylvania’s physician general.

“The data suggests that receiving the COVID-19 vaccines outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy,” Dr. Johnson said. “And there is no evidence that the vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, can cause any fertility problems in men or women.”

During the press conference, Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter said that she is currently pregnant and that she had received the booster dose eight weeks into her pregnancy. She encouraged those with questions to contact their health care provider for more information.

“I’m sharing this news publicly, because I want my story to help other women across Pennsylvania make an informed decision,” she said.

A replay of the briefing is available online.