Increased Effort is Necessary to Encourage Vaccinations During Pregnancy


State health officials are urging pregnant people to get vaccinated. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Concerns about pregnant people getting the COVID-19 vaccine are charged, sensitive and, in my opinion, understandable. 

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not an anti-vaxxer or a flat-earther that doesn’t believe in the real-life magic that is science. However, it’s important to recognize that this particular conversation is very delicate. 

This past August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said that “all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding [should] get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19.” Walensky also noted that “it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people.”

Despite this report, pregnant people continue to suffer with and die from COVID-19. As of last week, a staggering 75% of those expecting remain unvaccinated. This is causing deadly consequences for both mothers and children. 

Mississippi’s state health department is conducting an investigation after eight expectant mothers died of COVID-19 in the past month, according to ABC News. The network also reported that the Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said that “COVID is especially problematic and dangerous for pregnant women … We also know it can be deadly for the baby in the womb.”

My cousin got the vaccine in May, and she gave birth to her first child in June. When this news trickled down through the family channels, I’ll admit that some were skeptical, maybe even a little worried. But my cousin spoke to her doctor before making the decision and she is now a healthy mom of a healthy baby girl.

Pregnant people who get the vaccine are very brave, and that is not to imply that trusting science is risky. Trusting anything with your unborn child is a tremendous act of faith, especially considering all the COVID-19 vaccine conspiracies floating around the internet. 

One of the most well-circulated rumors is that the vaccines cause infertility in women. And, according to NPR, “despite a mountain of scientific evidence showing the vaccines are safe and effective, the false information persists.” Though this myth has been consistently unfounded, it is one of the reasons that women in general have put off getting the vaccine.

However, pregnant women have reason to be wary of new medications. In the 1950s and ’60s, European doctors prescribed their patients a German drug called thalidomide. Thalidomide sought to treat a range of maladies, from the common cold to nausea in early pregnancy, according to Medical News Today. Many women who took this drug while pregnant gave birth to babies with severe birth defects, including missing limbs and incorrectly developed organs. “Estimates suggest that the drug caused at least 10,000 cases of severe congenital abnormality, leading to the death within months of approximately half of the babies affected,” reports Medical News Today.

Nonetheless, comparing today’s medical standards to those during the thalidomide crisis should encourage women to trust vaccines. The regulatory standards 50 years ago were a lot looser than they are today. It was partly due to the thalidomide tragedy that regulations became so much stricter. 

This past summer, the FDA finally approved the Pfizer vaccine, with Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock stating that “the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.” 

Despite this significant approval from such a well-respected organization, some government officials still allow for people to remain unvaccinated and unmasked in public spaces. In response to President Biden’s new vaccine mandate, Senator Joey Hensley (R-TN) said Americans “have a right to make the choice” if they want the vaccine or not. 

To convince more pregnant people to get the COVID-19, agencies like the CDC or FDA should continue publishing more data about the safety of getting the vaccine while pregnant. Stories like what is happening in Mississippi should be getting more national attention. It would also be helpful if ordinary people, like my cousin, from both sides of the political aisle shared their positive experiences. Inundate the news cycle with successful stories, drown out the conspiracy theories and maybe people will start to believe in the vaccine 

Pregnant people should look at overwhelmingly positive data and realize that if they want their children to grow up in a healthy, COVID-19 free world, they should get vaccinated.

Nicole Braun, FCRH ’24, is undecided from Saddle River, N.J.