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Is COVID-19 vaccine safe for pregnant women? EVMS expert weighs in

Many pregnant women are wondering if they should get the COVID-19 vaccine. Experts say it's a personal choice.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a big decision for women expecting a child.

Pregnant women were not part of the vaccine trials but are at a greater risk for having serious complications if they do get the virus.

Shelby Mendez and her husband Adam got their miracle baby on their third attempt at IVF. Now, almost five months pregnant, Mendez worries about the safety of both herself and her unborn baby girl during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mendez explained, “I stay home as much as possible. I’m constantly worried about getting it.”

With more people getting the COVID-19 vaccine, Mendez said she's heard mixed opinions when it comes to pregnant women and the shot. Her doctor recommends it, but she says she doesn’t want to take the risk.

“I am not getting the vaccine. I just do not feel comfortable with it,” she said. "There have been no pregnant women included in any of the trials, and it’s just a very new vaccine. I will get it when I’m not pregnant, right now, I’m just not comfortable.”

Courtney Pedraza is expecting her third child and is seven months along. She ended up catching COVID-19 during her pregnancy. Pedraza said she experienced mild symptoms including fever, body aches and chills for about a week.

She said, “The scariness of COVID isn’t bad enough then realizing you have it being pregnant. That is a whole other thing. Thankfully, my OB did tell me that because it’s a virus it cannot penetrate the placenta, so the baby was totally fine.”

Pedraza, like Mendez, said she isn’t planning on getting the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant. She said while her doctor is also recommending it, it’s something she would rather wait to do.

“I am more so just waiting and seeing how it goes, how is everyone’s reactions to it,” she said. “I don’t feel like there is an urgency that I need it, especially since I’ve had COVID already.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said getting the COVID-19 vaccination is a personal choice for pregnant women.

“It can be a little bit of a challenging conversation, but the vaccination we overall believe is safe to the general population. Unfortunately, a lot of the vaccine trials did not include pregnant women or lactating women,” explained Dr. Gloria Too.

Dr. Too, Assistant Professor of EVMS Maternal-Fetal Medicine, said she recommends the vaccine to her patients, especially to those who are healthcare workers, teachers, or essential workers. She said of the people who have gotten the Pfizer vaccine, 23 people so far have become pregnant. She said they have not experienced any negative effects so far.

Too explained, “We don’t suspect it should reach breast milk. We don’t suspect it should reach the placenta and cross over. It shouldn’t have any lasting effects, and it doesn’t get into either maternal or fetal DNA.”

Dr. Too said if pregnant women get the COVID-19 vaccine, there is a chance their unborn baby could get some of the immunity that the mother develops from the shot. She said if families are on the fence about getting the vaccine, to consult their doctor.

 “Ultimately what is the lesser of two evils,” she explained. “The coronavirus and the complications of it or the potential for the unknown, which we think the unknown risk are fairly minimal based on what we know about the vaccine.”