Without Official Vaccine

Topic: Without Official Vaccine Guidance, Pregnant People Are Left to Do Their Own Research

Kolina Watt de Garcia, a high school teacher in Oregon, was apprehensive when she learned in January that she’d be returning to the classroom after teaching for much of 2020 virtually. She knew that as a teacher, she’d soon be offered a COVID-19 vaccine. But there was one complication: She was pregnant—and she worried that the shots could harm her developing fetus.

“My options were essentially: Take a leave of absence or return to school,” she said. “With a baby on the way it does not seem fiscally responsible to reduce our household to a single income, but going back into the classroom is daunting.”

In the early stages of her first trimester, overjoyed to be pregnant after trying to conceive for seven years, Watt de Garcia asked her OB for advice, but the answer she received wasn’t the direct answer she’d hoped for. “My OBGYN was very clear that I was the only one who could decide what is best for me and my baby,” she said. “She did not tell me one way or another to get, or not to get the vaccine.”

The decision of whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant is one that many are struggling to make. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists pregnancy as a high-risk category for COVID-19 in the same group as people with cancer or heart conditions. Pregnant people are three times likelier to end up in the ICU and in need of a ventilator. More worrisome, they are 70 percent likelier to die from COVID-19, compared with people the same age who are not pregnant, according to the CDC. There are also potentially severe consequences for the unborn baby, such as a slightly increased risk of premature birth.

Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence suggests the vaccines are safe for both the birthing parent and the fetus during pregnancy. During the trials, at least a dozen of the participants who received the vaccine instead of the placebo became unexpectedly pregnant, with no ill effects. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said last month that so far there have been “no red flags” since more than 20,000 pregnant women received the vaccine in the past few months.

Topic Discussed: Without Official Vaccine Guidance, Pregnant People Are Left to Do Their Own Research

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