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There is a lot of controversy and concern surrounding getting COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy. The vaccine is new. It was developed very quickly to combat the widespread disease that has already affected 33,718,298 people and caused the death of 600,174. A vaccination for the disease is absolutely necessary to combat its widespread effects. The major concern surrounding getting one of the vaccines during pregnancy is that it was developed so quickly that the long-term effects of the vaccine are unknown.
The Risk Of COVID-19 In Pregnancy
Pregnant women are in a class of elevated risk if they were to contract COVID-19. The risk of severe illness or death is still believed to be low, but the risk is higher when compared to nonpregnant women in the same age group. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of being hospitalized in an intensive care unit with a high level of care, such as, breathing support, and are at a high risk of dying if they contract COVID-19. Having COVID-19 may increase the risks for premature birth, but there is no record of birth defects associated with COVID-19. Transmission of COVID-19 from mother to baby is rare but can happen.
Read More: 6 Simple Tips To Prepare For Postpartum Care
Getting The Vaccine
Studies have shown that the vaccines for COVID-19 are effective in reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19. However, there are not many studies on the vaccine’s effect for those women that chose to receive vaccines during pregnancy. None of the vaccine trials chose to include pregnant women, so the only information we have is from women who received the vaccine after it was released.
The CDC is tracking 30,000 pregnant women who received one of the COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy. Those who have reported their symptoms following their vaccination have reported the same symptoms that non-pregnant individuals experienced following the vaccination. No miscarriages, stillbirths, or preterm births have been linked to the vaccine from this study of pregnant women.
A few different companies are supplying COVID-19 vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is a two-part COVID-19 vaccine. The two shots are given twenty-one days apart. The Pfizer vaccine creates an immunity that is 95% effective at preventing the vaccinated individual from contracting COVID-19 where there is no evidence of prior infection. The vaccine is 95% effective two weeks following the second vaccination and is currently known to stay that effective for six months, but it could last months longer.
Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla is saying people will likely need a third vaccine within a twelve-month period and possibly annually. The Pfizer vaccine is only currently known to have temporary side effects including tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, nausea, joint pain, and tenderness where you get the vaccine.
The second company giving a COVID-19 vaccine is Moderna. The Moderna vaccine is also two separate shots but is given twenty-eight days apart rather than twenty-one days. The Moderna vaccine provides a 94.1% immunity from COVID-19 two weeks after the second dose of the vaccine. Prior to that two-week period, the vaccine is not in full effect and COVID-19 can be contracted.
The Moderna CEO, Stephane Bancel, states that they are working on an annual vaccine that would protect against COVID-19, the COVID-19 variants, and the flu. Moderna’s goal is to give one vaccine annually to immunize against COVID-19 and the Flu. The Moderna vaccine is only currently known to have temporary side effects including tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, nausea, joint pain, and tenderness where you get the vaccine.
If you get the initial shot, it is important to follow up with the second shot for the Pfizer vaccine or Moderna vaccine. The vaccines are not fully effective after the first dose. You should also try to receive your second vaccine from the same company as your initial vaccine because they require different waiting periods in between the vaccines. If you do not remember which vaccine you received for the first vaccine, you should wait the twenty-eight days required by the Moderna vaccine and receive the Moderna vaccine to be on the safe side.
Johnson & Johnson
The third company giving COVID-19 vaccines is Johnson & Johnson. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single shot and it is 66-72% effective at preventing a person from contracting COVID-19 two weeks after they have received the vaccine. Having to receive only one shot is convenient, however, the percentage of effectiveness is far lower than that of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is known to have temporary side effects including tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea.
However, there have also been cases with a rare blood clotting issue to be aware of. The number of people suffering from blood clots is low in relation to the millions of people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, the blood clotting issue creates a real cause for concern for expecting mothers trying to decide whether to get COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy.
On April 13, 2021, the CDC and FDA temporarily halted Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine due to a blood clotting issue that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been linked to. At that point, six women between the ages of 18 and 48 were known to be suffering from the rare blood clotting issues associated with Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. The women developed a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) in the area of their brain that collects and drains oxygen-depleted blood. The blood clots developed between six and thirteen days after the affected individuals received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was halted, the CDC has discovered an additional nine cases, all in women, and all in conjunction with a condition in which people have a low blood count of platelets which help blood clot. As of April 21, 2021, seven of the fifteen women were still hospitalized, five had returned home, and three have died.
The individuals who suffered from the blood clotting issue experienced the same symptoms that other people were feeling after they received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine but at a growing intensity. Their symptoms continually got worse instead of better. The symptoms associated with the blood clotting issue cannot get better on their own.
The US Center for Disease Prevention and Control is advising people to get medical attention quickly if they received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the prior three weeks and are suffering from persistent, severe headaches, blurred vision, shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain or unusual bruising. These symptoms could indicate the presence of the rare blood clotting issues as they have been present in the individuals suffering from the rare blood clotting issue. People may also experience stroke-like difficulty speaking or moving an arm or leg as a result of the rare blood clotting issue.
The medical treatment of this rare blood clotting issue is different than that of other blood clots. In other blood clotting cases, doctors can give a person heparin, a commonly prescribed anticoagulant. However, heparin can make the rare blood clotting condition worse. The CDC is aggressively reaching out to physicians to ensure they are aware of the signs and symptoms for the rare blood clotting issues and informing clinicians not to administer heparin in rare blood clotting cases.
On April 23, 2021, the CDC and FDA recommended resuming the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, women younger than fifty are being cautioned about the rare risk of blood clots associated with the vaccine and being reminded that the other COVID-19 vaccinations have not seen the blood clotting issues yet.
While women younger than fifty are being cautioned about the rare blood clotting issues, it should be noted that a man in Mississippi also experienced blood clotting on his brain shortly after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The man suffered a stroke due to the blood clotting, leaving him paralyzed on one side of his body and unable to speak. Johnson & Johnson reported the blood clotting issue in another man, but we have not been informed of the man’s condition.
It should also be noted that there is an additional vaccine, similar in construction to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is also causing the blood clotting issue. That vaccine is the AstraZeneca vaccine currently administered in Europe, and not yet authorized in the United States. There were 222 people out of 34 million people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Britain, the European Union and three other countries that experienced rare blood clots.
European regulators deemed that the benefits of AstraZeneca outweigh the risk the vaccine poses. AstraZeneca is still given to older people who are at higher risk but restricted in younger people. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use a different technology than the Johnson & Jonson and AstraZeneca vaccines.
The recent news about Johnson and Johnson affects the public’s view of COVID-19 vaccines as a whole. That is due to the vaccinations being new and created in a similar amount of time. It has shaken the faith of the public that COVID-19 vaccinations for the general public and vaccines during pregnancy are safe. Dr. Mark Crowther of the American Society of Hematology has stated that no one should be shying away from getting a COVID-19 vaccine as the blood clotting issue is extremely rare and pointed out that COVID-19 is associated with a risk of blood clots that is a thousand times higher than the rare blood clots we are currently seeing.
It is important to note, however, that fully vaccinated individuals must still wear masks, avoid large crowds, avoid poorly ventilated spaces and remain six feet away from other people. The vaccines do not completely prevent you from contracting COVID-19; they just reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19. The immunity protections from each of the vaccines take time to develop. None of the vaccines provide 100% immunity, so you can still contract COVID-19 if you do receive the vaccines.
Additionally, the reported effectiveness of the vaccines is based upon administration on individuals who have not previously been infected with COVID-19. The effectiveness may not be the same if an individual has previously contracted COVID-19. It is in the best interest of the expecting mother that even if she receives the COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy that she continue health practices such as hand washing and wearing a mask.
As an expecting mother myself, I have gone back and forth with the decision of receiving COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy. At first, I was not considering it at all due to the unknown risks it could cause in the future and the rumors surrounding getting the vaccines during pregnancy. It was rumored to cause infertility and miscarriage.
After speaking with my doctor, it became very clear that that information was in fact rumor and not reality. There is no link between the vaccine and infertility or miscarriage. My doctor encouraged me to do more research and consider getting one of the COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy because contracting COVID-19 could be fatal for the baby if she contracts it.
I did some research and spoke with other medical professionals including my sister. Medical professionals are not all in agreeance on the vaccine’s safety which is a cause for concern for me. I coupled that with the recent issues with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in reaching my final decision not to get the vaccine. This is a decision each person must make for themselves after research and time thinking it through. It is not a decision you should come to lightly.
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