Pregnancy and the COVID-19 vaccine: what to consider

Health ins. enrollment expands for pregnancy
Posted at 1:50 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 17:11:23-05

“What’s worse than having to make a decision about your body and your baby that’s never been made before?” Rebecca Witter asked.

Last weekend, Witter said she made one of the hardest decisions of her life. At 24 weeks pregnant, Witter received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Was I scared? Yes, I was scared. I’m going to be very transparent about that.”

Witter is a doctor of audiology for a local private practice, and was able to get vaccinated in group 1A because she’s a healthcare worker. But, beginning February 15, pregnancy is among the comorbidities that will be eligible to be vaccinated in New York State.

Getting vaccinated isn’t something the mother of two from Buffalo said she took lightly. After all, pregnant and breast feeding women were not included in the clinical trials in the United States. “I spent many late nights reading the facts. Just really forcing myself to understand it fully before I made that decision which it was a heavy one,” Witter said.

According to Trinity Medical Doctor Caitlin Nicotra, pregnant women are never included in clinical trials. So, excluding them from the COVID trials isn’t out of the ordinary. Researchers are sometimes concerned about the physiologic complexity in pregnancy, and possible legal liability.

She is encouraging pregnant women to get vaccinated because she said pregnant women are at greater risk for complications if they do test positive for coronavirus.

“I do not see any reason why a pregnant women should not get the vaccine based on the data we have.”

The World Health Organization does not recommend the vaccination of pregnant women at this time.

Accoding to the CDC, key considerations pregnant patients can discuss with their healthcare provider include:

  • The likelihood of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
  • Risks of COVID-19 to them and potential risks to their fetuses
  • What is known about the vaccine: how well it works to develop protection in the body, known side effects of the vaccine, and lack of data during pregnancy

REPORTER ALI TOUHEY: Is it also too soon to understand what the effects could be on a fetus because a lot of these women haven’t yet given birth since they’re just not getting the vaccine?
NICOTRA: There are some animal studies on Moderna and Pfizer and neither found adverse effects on rats which is a good sign.

Nicotra said it’s also a misconception that the vaccine causes infertility. Nicotra said fever (a common vaccine side effect) has led to cramping and preterm contractions. But, she said it hasn’t led to preterm labor or other pregnancy complications.

In Witter’s case, she said there was some soreness at the injection site. “It wasn’t anything intolerable. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t put up with but that was truly it.”

She was also asked to wait longer than other patients who aren’t pregnant. “Most people sit for 15. They asked me to sit for 30 minutes. Ok, I got 30 minutes for you,” Witter said.

But otherwise, Witter said she hasn’t experienced anything different. For Witter, she said the benefits to getting vaccinated far outweighed the risks.

“I hope that what I did will help some future pregnant women make an easier choice than all the rest of us had.”