RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an urgent health advisory to increase vaccination among pregnant people. The agency is asking pregnant, recently pregnant and those who may one day become pregnant to get vaccinated now.

The CDC said more than 125,000 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in pregnant people. More than 22,000 of them have been hospitalized and 161 have died.

August was the worst month for COVID-19 related deaths in pregnant people. Almost all, 97 percent, of hospitalized pregnant people were unvaccinated according to the CDC.

“Pregnancy can be both a special time and also a stressful time – and pregnancy during a pandemic is an added concern for families,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “I strongly encourage those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to talk with their healthcare provider about the protective benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe.”

As of Sept. 18, just 31 percent of pregnant people were vaccinated with very strong racial and ethnic disparities among that group according to the CDC.

The CDC said non-Hispanic Black pregnant people had the lowest vaccine coverage with just 16 percent vaccinated against COVID-19. Asian and white pregnant people were the most vaccinated.

  • Pregnant Asian people: 45.7% vaccinated
  • Hispanic or Latino pregnant people: 25% vaccinated
  • Black pregnant people: 15.6% vaccinated

Pregnant people are twice as likely to get admitted into ICU and have a 70 percent increased risk of death after COVID-19 infection. Before the pandemic, Black pregnant people were already experiencing higher risk pregnancies. The CDC reported those were four to five times more likely to die during pregnancy than their white counterparts.

“We now have data that demonstrates that vaccines, in whatever time in pregnancy or lactating that they’re given, are actually safe and effective and have no adverse events to mom or to baby,” Walensky said. “And we’ve actually seen that, in fact, some antibody from the vaccine traverses to the baby and, in fact, could potentially protect the baby.”

Pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccines questions

If you are pregnant, or plan to be, and have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, MotherToBaby has experts available to answer questions in English and Spanish.

Pregnancy and vaccine myths busted

Question: Is it safe to get a COVID-19 shot if I want to be pregnant some day?

CDC Answer: Yes.

Currently no evidence shows that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems (problems trying to get pregnant) in women or men.

Question: Are vaccines safe if I am breastfeeding?

CDC Answer: Yes.

COVID-19 vaccines cannot cause infection in anyone, including the mother or the baby, and the vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 in people who are breastfeeding. Recent reports have shown that breastfeeding people who have received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have antibodies in their breastmilk, which could help protect their babies. More data are needed to determine what protection these antibodies may provide to the baby.

Question: Is there any trimester or point in pregnancy unsafe for vaccination?

CDC Answer: No.

When pregnant people receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy, their bodies build antibodies against COVID-19, similar to non-pregnant people. Antibodies made after a pregnant person received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine were found in umbilical cord blood. This means COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy might help protect babies against COVID-19.

What side effects do pregnant people experience?

CDC Answer: Pregnant people have not reported different side effects from non-pregnant people after vaccination with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines). If you experience fever following vaccination you should take acetaminophen because fever—for any reason—has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Should pregnant people avoid the Johnson and Johnson vaccine?

CDC Answer: Pregnant or recently pregnant people can receive any FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine. Based on available data, experts believe that being pregnant or recently pregnant does not make someone more likely to develop Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia Syndrome(rare condition that involves blood clots with low platelets) after receiving the J&J COVID-19 vaccine. All women younger than 50 years old should be aware of the rare but increased risk for TTS. Other COVID-19 vaccines are available for which this risk has not been seen.