Local doctors weigh in: Should pregnant women take Moderna vaccine?


FILE – In this Thursday, May 7, 2020 file photo, a pregnant woman wearing a face mask and gloves holds her belly as she waits in line for groceries with hundreds during a food pantry sponsored by Healthy Waltham for those in need due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, at St. Mary’s Church in Waltham, Mass. On Thursday, June 25, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its list of which Americans are at higher risk for severe cases of COVID-19, adding pregnant women and removing age alone as a factor. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

ROCHESTER, N.Y (WROC) — The World Health Organization is now recommending that pregnant women not take the Moderna vaccine unless they are at risk of high COVID-19 exposure in their workplace. But local health leaders in our community are saying – don’t let this scare you or deter you from making your own personal decision.

Dr. Daniel Grace with Rochester Regional Health says there’s a few misunderstandings among patients regarding this recent recommendation. Firstly, many think the recommendation applies to all pregnant women, which is not true.

“The WHO did not actually say its not recommended for pregnant women period. They said they don’t recommend the vaccine unless the woman is at high-risk due to exposure to contracting COVID-19. That’s actually not that dissimilar to what other societies have said,” he said.

Dr. Loralei Thornburg with URMC says another misunderstanding is people think the vaccine is harmful to pregnant women. That’s not the case. In fact, she says the vaccine is similar to other vaccines people get like the tetanus shot in their build, and is considered very safe. The concern lies in the fact that there is little data.

Pregnant women were not included in trials for the vaccine. As a result – Dr. Thornburg says the decision to take the vaccine or not is an individual one you make with your health care provider, after looking at your COVID risk factors. Are you concerned for COVID complicating your pregnancy? Do you have medical conditions that make you at risk for serious side effects that could affect your pregnancy? Doctors say these questions can help you weigh your decision.

“We have to separate safety from a lack of data. In this case pregnant people were not included in original trials. So we have limited info on potential risks and how they might do,” she said.

Again, Dr. Thornburg says you have to weigh your concerns for COVID complicating your pregnancy, with the vaccine, that has limited data. But even with little data, she says many health experts and societies don’t believe it to be risky. “Neither COVID vaccine is a live vaccine, they’re a mRNA vaccine, so the mechanism by which they work would make it unlikely to cause an issue,” she said.

Alexis Hernandez is an essential worker who is also five months pregnant. Her personal decision is not taking the vaccine until after pregnancy.

“I’m not against it or any vaccine, I just thought it would be best to wait,” she said.

Even with reassurance from doctors that there is little reason to believe the vaccine is harmful – Hernandez is sticking with her option because it’s what works for her. She says she wants to wait until more data is out on the effect on pregnant women. She also wants to avoid any side effects that would occur during her pregnancy.

“I know not everybody gets side effects, but I just don’t want the side effects while being pregnant,” she said.

Dr. Grace says pregnant women with underlying conditions like diabetes or obesity are more at risk for COVID and pregnancy complications. “In a thousand women who get COVID who are pregnant, about 10 will require ICU admission, not a huge number, but it’s an increase compared to about the 3 or 4 people who are not pregnant per thousand,” he said.

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