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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) strongly recommend that all pregnant women be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Only about 16% of pregnant people have received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite evidence that COVID-19 infection puts pregnant people at an increased risk of severe complications and death.

That CDC report in June also found that vaccination during pregnancy was lowest among Hispanic (11.9%) and non-Hispanic Black women (6%) and women aged 18-24 years (5.5%) and highest among non-Hispanic Asian women (24.7%) and women aged 35-49 years (22.7%).

Linda Eckert, MD, cancer iron nexium professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Washington, Seattle, and a member of ACOG’s immunization expert work group, said in an interview that previously, ACOG has said that pregnant women should have the opportunity to be vaccinated, should they choose it.

Now the urgency has increased, she said: “This is a strong recommendation.”

The recommendation comes after mounting evidence demonstrating that COVID-19 vaccines are safe during pregnancy “from tens of thousands of reporting individuals over the last several months, as well as the current low vaccination rates and concerning increase in cases,” ACOG and SMFM said in the statement.

Both organizations said the timing of the advisory comes amid growing concern about the Delta variant.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, has called the variant “one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of.”

No Evidence of Maternal/Fetal Harm

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines could cause maternal or fetal harm, ACOG stated.

“ACOG encourages its members to enthusiastically recommend vaccination to their patients. This means emphasizing the known safety of the vaccines and the increased risk of severe complications associated with COVID-19 infection, including death, during pregnancy,” said J. Martin Tucker, MD, FACOG, president of ACOG. “It is clear that pregnant people need to feel confident in the decision to choose vaccination, and a strong recommendation from their obstetrician-gynecologist could make a meaningful difference for many pregnant people.”

Pregnant women are considered high risk because of concerns about the effect of COVID-19 during and after pregnancy, and on their offspring.

As this news organization has reported, research published in The BMJ found that pregnant women with COVID-19 may be at higher risk of admission to a hospital intensive care unit.

Preterm birth rates also were found to be higher among pregnant women with COVID-19 than among pregnant women without the disease.

Eckert said several of her patients have declined the vaccine. Among the reasons are that they don’t want to take any medications while pregnant or that they have heard that effects of the vaccines were not studied in pregnant women.

“Sometimes as I review with them the ongoing data coming in from pregnant individuals and newborns, [these patients] may change their minds and get the vaccine,” Eckert said.

In some cases, a pregnant patient’s family has pressured the patient not to get the vaccine.

The ACOG/SMFM advice notes that pregnant women who have decided to wait until after delivery to be vaccinated “may be inadvertently exposing themselves to an increased risk of severe illness or death.”

The recommendation extends to those who have already given birth.

“Those who have recently delivered and were not vaccinated during pregnancy are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” the statement reads.

ACOG has developed talking points about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant patients.

Eckert disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

This story originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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