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CDC urges pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccine, but myths still spreading online

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 9:43 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - The CDC joined a chorus of experts this week urging pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

This comes on the heels of guidance from both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM). Both groups recommended anyone who is pregnant should get the COVID-19 vaccine.

These health experts report there is a growing body of research that shows the three available vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant women.

Additional new data shows that pregnant women who get the vaccine in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy do not increase their risk of miscarriage.

Plus, according to a Lexington Medical Center doctor, the vaccine may offer some protection against COVID-19 for a newborn baby.

“If a mom gets a COVID vaccination when she’s pregnant and she breastfeeds… she passes along her immunity through her breastmilk to her baby and it helps protect her baby from getting an infection as a newborn,” said Dr. Paul Browne.

Browne is a maternal-fetal medicine physician at Lexington Medical Center. He told WIS that on the flip side, moms who get COVID-19 while pregnant significantly increase their risk of premature delivery.

Even though COVID-19 has been around and a threat for well over a year, Browne has seen a lot of pregnant patients who are nervous about the new technology associated with the vaccine.

“I think that it’s reasonable to be nervous about new technology,” he said. “It’s reasonable to be reluctant to get a vaccination, but that reluctance should come from scientific evidence, not from social media.”

Browne said he’s seen several myths spread online. The most common myths include “the vaccine causes infertility” or that “the new technology could harm an unborn baby.”

All of these are false, he said.

“It doesn’t change your fertility, it doesn’t hurt babies or cause birth defects, and what it actually does is protect mom from getting a COVID infection while they’re pregnant,” Browne said.

The reluctance based on the unknowns was something Lexington resident and second-time mom, Hollie Harmon, understood.

“I was definitely in that group of people that felt like they had rushed this vaccine,” Harmon said.

Harmon and her husband, Daniel, found out they were pregnant in October 2020, less than two months before the first COVID-19 vaccine got emergency use authorization. Because the technology was new and there wasn’t a lot of data on the effects the vaccine could have on pregnant women, Harmon wanted to make sure she didn’t harm herself or baby Charlie.

Research is showing the COVID-19 infection itself could harm a baby, according to Browne.

He said some of LMC’s patients have even lost their babies due to contracting COVID-19.

Harmon said it took seeing one of her coworkers get very sick to get curious about whether the vaccine was the right option for her.

“It really scared me because I knew that I was pregnant, because I knew that gave me a higher chance of, if I got sick, I could get very sick,” Harmon said. “Once I started researching the vaccine, my mindset completely changed. And I decided that I wanted to do what I could do to protect myself and protect my baby and my family.”

She said there is no doubt in her mind that she made the right choice.

“I’m so grateful that in hindsight I made the decision that, at the time, was scary to make,” Harmon said.

There are reasons for someone not to get the vaccine. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to another vaccine or anaphylaxis, experts do not recommend getting the vaccine.

As always, talk to your health care provider about the best course of action for you.

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