An entire population of adults has not been accounted for when it comes to administering COVID-19 vaccinations. Pregnant women, who are at higher risk of severe illness if they contract the virus, were excluded from vaccine clinical trials, and now there is debate and concern about whether or not they are safe for expecting mothers.
March of Dimes CEO Stacey Stewart said the exclusion of pregnant women in vaccine testing is an outdated process and a roadblock for the advancement of science.
"It's 2021, we need to take a more modern approach to how we advance science, especially as it relates to pregnant women [and] to newborn babies," Stewart told Cheddar. "At the March of Dimes, we've been a long advocate for newborn screening for all the things that would help us to make sure that moms and babies are protected,"
While the CDC and the World Health Organization both agree that patients should consult with a doctor to make the best decision for themselves and their baby, the impact of the vaccines, particularly the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccines that do not use the live version of the virus, on pregnancies is unknown. So far, both companies are monitoring women who became pregnant after getting vaccinated.
According to Stewart, the fact that the Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines do not "influence or alter the DNA" signals that they would be a safe option for pregnant women to consider.
"What we are saying at the March of Dimes is consult your health care practitioner," she said. "But by all means, know that as a pregnant woman you are at potentially higher risk of severe illness if you contract COVID-19, so we would certainly recommend that women give serious thought to receiving the vaccine when they're able to."
Last week, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said of the more than 10,000 pregnant women that have been vaccinated, no major incidents have been reported, which Stewart said is a good indicator of safety.
"If a woman is at high risk, is an essential worker, is at high risk of being in contact with someone that has COVID-19, is at high risk herself of severe illness because of comorbidities, please consider the vaccine because it could save your life. It could save the life of your baby as well," she noted.