About 3 in 4 pregnant women in US unvaccinated against COVID-19

Pregnant women face a higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease and pregnancy complications following infection

Most pregnant women in the U.S. have yet to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of Aug. 21, about 3 in 4 pregnant women aged 18-49 were unvaccinated, or in other words, 23.9% overall received at least one dose, per data from the agency’s Vaccine Safety Datalink. Vaccination coverage was reported lowest among Hispanic/Latina (19.2%) and Black pregnant women (11.7%), with higher coverage reported among Asian (35.2%) and White pregnant women (26.6%).

Dr. Oluwatosin Goje, OB-GYN and infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic, told Fox News that the overall percentage of unvaccinated pregnant women is "very concerning," while citing the vaccines' safety and efficacy.

"This is a message that should continue to be shared with pregnant patients," Goje said. "With more than a dozen medical professional societies endorsing COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women and the FDA recently granting full approval of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, pregnant women should feel more empowered to get the vaccine and we hope to see an uptick in vaccination among pregnant women."

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(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC)

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"Vaccination among pregnant people remains low," the CDC wrote in part in the COVID Data Tracker weekly update on Aug. 20. "This low uptake persists despite recent increases in COVID-19 cases in pregnant people."

The CDC on Aug. 11 strengthened a recommendation for use of COVID-19 vaccines among pregnant women, after a new study indicated no heightened risk of miscarriage among women who received the shot during early pregnancy. The analysis stemmed from additional safety data on 2,456 women who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy, with results indicating an approximate 13% miscarriage rate, within the expected rate of about 11% to 16% in the general population.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's leading infectious disease expert, spoke on the issue during a White House briefing on Aug. 31, saying in part: "It is very clear now…that there are severe adverse outcomes for mother and baby during COVID-19 infection, therefore it is extremely important for pregnant women and women planning to get pregnant to get vaccinated."

Fauci cited evidence indicating increased risk of ICU admission, ventilation, ECMO (mechanical support for the heart and lungs) and death among pregnant women with symptomatic COVID-19 versus non-pregnant women with COVID-19, before vaccines became available. Other data indicated vaccinated pregnant women passed along protective antibodies to their infant through breastmilk.

"CDC encourages all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky previously said. "The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people."

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As of Aug. 30, the agency reported 112,806 total COVID-19 cases among pregnant women and 135 deaths, and federal data indicate COVID-19 cases were increasing among pregnant women into late July.

The recent full FDA approval awarded to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should boost confidence in the shot, according Dr. Martin Tucker, president of the the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). 

In a previous statement, Tucker said:  "With [the] Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensure of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, clinicians can feel even more confident in recommending vaccination for their patients, including pregnant patients. All eligible individuals, including those who are pregnant, should feel similarly confident in being vaccinated against COVID-19."