As a parent, I understand you want to do everything in your power to protect your children and avoid placing them in danger at all costs. As a physician, I understand the skepticism that accompanies new treatments and medical technologies. I also understand that pregnancy and parenting during a pandemic come with a unique set of challenges and concerns.
I know that there is disagreement about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine within some families and communities. But after talking with my physician friends who are obstetricians, pediatricians and family physicians, I am compelled to add my thoughts to this discussion. My physician friends are expressing frustration, sadness and bewilderment as they care for patients and families experiencing the tragedy of losing a family member to a disease that could have been prevented with a vaccine.
Make no mistake: getting COVID-19 while pregnant or breastfeeding is more dangerous for the parent and baby than getting the COVID-19 vaccination while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Simply put, the risks of NOT getting a COVID-19 vaccine are far greater than the risks we have learned can be associated with getting the vaccine. Pregnancy weakens the immune system even for healthy women making them more vulnerable to any infection, including COVID-19. If you get COVID-19 while pregnant, you are more likely to get severely sick, need hospitalization or die. Being older, obese, Black or Hispanic or having diabetes or heart disease increases your risk of severe illness even more. Being pregnant while having COVID-19 can also affect your baby. Getting COVID-19 while pregnant can lead to preterm delivery (before 37 weeks) or cesarean birth.
If you are a pregnant woman who has been vaccinated and you still get Covid-19 (which can occur despite best practices), the good news is that you are less likely to get so sick that you require hospitalization, supplemental oxygen, isolation and specialized medications that sometimes pose risks to your unborn baby. Plus, your baby receives protective antibodies if you get vaccinated during pregnancy. This protection continues after birth.
The benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination while pregnant. Getting the COVID-19 shot during pregnancy is not associated with early miscarriage or stillbirth. Pregnant women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine may have mild side effects like injection site reactions, fatigue, chills, muscle pain, joint pain and headaches.
If you are breastfeeding and receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine causes your body to produce antibodies against the COVID-19 virus that protect you against serious illness and death and may strengthen your baby’s immune system’s ability to fight off the virus. Some individuals worry that vaccine ingredients are transferred to breastmilk, but research has shown this is not the case.
Public health and medical experts believe that it is safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if you’re breastfeeding. While the COVID-19 vaccine trials did not include breastfeeding mothers or pregnant women for ethical reasons, what we know about these and other vaccines supports their safety.
The bottom line: getting vaccinated is an easy way to protect against severe COVID-19 infection. Other ways to protect yourself and your baby from COVID-19 are wearing a mask indoors, staying six feet away from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces and washing your hands often. If you have questions about COVID-19 or vaccination, please call your doctor.
There are no costs for the COVID-19 vaccine for Blue KC members during the public health emergency. For more information on Blue KC COVID-19 costs and coverage, please visit www BlueKC.com/Vaccine or call 888-989-8842.