A pregnant woman gets an ultrasound
Kemal Yildirim | E + | Getty Images
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday that Covid-19 deaths among pregnant women hit a record high of 21 in August and urged expectant mothers to get vaccinated against the virus.
Only 31% of pregnant women across the country have been vaccinated, although pregnant women with Covid are more likely to have dangerous symptoms that put their babies’ health at risk, she said. Walensky’s comments came just a day after the CDC announced a health recommendation for pregnant women to get vaccinated to reduce the risk of serious Covid infection.
“Compared to pregnant women without Covid, pregnant women with Covid are more likely to have premature births or stillbirths,” said Walensky during a presentation to the Infectious Disease Society of America. “And this goes a long way with a lot of evidence that pregnant women are at high risk for Covid-19 and their babies are at high risk too.”
More than 120,000 pregnant women in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Covid, and Walensky added that more than 5,000 pregnant women have participated in the agency’s vaccine safety surveillance programs. About half of the people studied received the Pfizer vaccine, about 44% received Moderna, and about 5% were vaccinated by Johnson & Johnson.
Walensky said examining the participants enabled the CDC to determine that Covid vaccines had no effect on increasing the risk of miscarriages. CDC officials expanded these findings at a meeting of the agency’s vaccine advisory committee on September 22 and reported a 12.8% risk of miscarriage by 20 weeks of gestation in 2,456 pregnant people vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna.
The risk of miscarriage measured in the study is consistent with the normal risk of miscarriage after adjusting for the mother’s age, officials said. But unvaccinated pregnant women need an intensive care unit and a ventilator more than twice as often as non-pregnant women when they become infected with Covid, Walensky added.
The CDC also examined 1,634 babies born to mothers immunized against Covid and reported 45 with birth defects – rates similar to babies born to healthy mothers. There were also 99 premature babies, 45 of whom were considered small for their gestational age and 158 needed an intensive care unit. Officials found no evidence of rare types or accumulations of birth defects.
Researchers at the HealthPartners Institute also told the CDC’s advisory board that Covid vaccines have not been linked to stillbirths. An analysis of the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink showed that pregnant women vaccinated against Covid gave birth to 11,300 live births and 26 stillbirths from December to July. The majority of stillbirths in the study resulted from placental complications, obstetric complications, and maternal comorbidities.