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WHO Recommends Against Pregnant Women Receiving COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares a similar outlook with the organization.

Pregnant women are at a significantly increased risk of dying from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). A recent study that followed 240 participants who had a confirmed infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus found that pregnant women were 3.5 times more likely to be hospitalized because of the disease and had a 13 times higher rate of mortality in comparison to those of a similar age.

One of the largest issues currently surrounding COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, like that of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, is whether or not pregnant women should get them.

It has been widely criticized that pregnant women were largely excluded from the vaccination trials, with some data stating that the population was kept out of 80% (124) of 155 clinical treatment trials of COVID-19 registered last April, and 75% (538) of 722 trials in July.

“The exclusion of pregnant patients from COVID-19 vaccine trials was a mistake," Kristina M. Adams Waldorfa professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and an adjunct professor in Global Health at the University of Washington said. "Here is an important group that is typically highly vulnerable to influenza infections and, yet they were excluded from COVID-19 vaccine trials. Pregnant patients should have been given the option to enroll in vaccine trials so that we would better understand vaccine risks and benefits to them."

Due to their exclusion and the resulting lack of data on how mRNA vaccines will impact woman and their pregnancies, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended against their use in women who are pregnant.

There have been animal trials conducted that showed no harmful effects in pregnancy, which is promising for the future. However, the WHO stated that even though mRNA vaccines are not live virus vaccines, and it does not enter the nucleus of cells, there is still insufficient data to assess vaccine efficacy or the risks associated with the vaccine to recommend them for use in pregnant women.

The WHO did note some exceptions though. Individuals who are in higher risk categories like health care workers or those with comorbidities should consider getting an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, because the benefit may outweigh the potential negatives.

The organization also stated that as more data becomes available on pregnant women and COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, that their recommendations will be updated accordingly.