WHO changes course, says COVID vaccine is safe for pregnant women

Coronavirus
12 on 12: Vaccine 101

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The World Health Organization (WHO) has changed its tune on whether it is safe for pregnant women to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Initially, the WHO warned pregnant women who were considering getting vaccinated not to do so, but in a revision posted on its website Friday afternoon, the organization said there are “no risks that would outweigh the benefits.”

When Rhode Island enters the next phase of its vaccination distribution plan, pregnant women will become eligible to receive the vaccine, since pregnancy is classified as an underlying medical condition.

The news also comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that pregnant women are considered high risk and are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms if infected.

Dr. Erika Werner, director of the Maternal Fetal Health Division at Women & Infants, said the decision to get vaccinated should be based off of how often the woman could potentially come into contact with the virus.

Examples, she said, include women who are health care workers or first responders.

“We don’t know about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the fetus, pregnant women were excluded from the trials,” Werner said. “So I think where that leaves me, both as a provider and as an advocate, is really having a discussion with each patient about what their risk is. I think for a lot of people, it makes sense to get the vaccine.”

Dr. Elizabeth Burchard with the Center for Obstetrics & Gynecology in Providence agrees. She said despite the potential for small unknown risks, “we feel that the overall benefits of getting vaccinated outweighs the risk.”

Werner said for those women who are still weary of the vaccine, choosing if and when to get it is completely up to you.

“If you really are able to isolate at home and keep your risk close to zero, then by all means, it makes sense to wait until we have more data,” she said. “But for most people, that is not possible, and for those people, they really should talk to their doctors and think about getting the vaccine.”

When it comes to women who are breastfeeding, the WHO said if the woman is part of a group recommended for vaccination, it is an option.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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