Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its strongest recommendation yet for pregnant people and those who were recently pregnant to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC’s latest message follows a similar directive the agency issued last month. Officials then shared data indicating there was no increase of miscarriage among the vaccinated.
A low percentage of pregnant people in the U.S.–only 31%–have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
The agency warned Wednesday that failing to get vaccinated puts the pregnant person and their baby more at risk if they were to get the coronavirus.
The guidance comes as the CDC reports that through Sept. 27 there were more than 125,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pregnant people. More than 22,000 people were hospitalized and 161 died. In August alone, there were 22 reported deaths.
Cases of COVID-19 in symptomatic, pregnant people have a higher risk of admission into intensive care and a 70% increased risk of death.
Lack of immunization from the coronavirus can also lead to an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes that could include preterm birth, stillbirth and admission into intensive care of a newborn also infected with COVID-19.
“Pregnancy can be both a special time and also a stressful time – and pregnancy during a pandemic is an added concern for families,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky said in a statement. “I strongly encourage those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to talk with their healthcare provider about the protective benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe.”
Vaccination rates among pregnant people vary markedly by race and ethnicity, according to the CDC’s data. Fully immunized levels are highest among Asian people who are pregnant (around 46%). About 27% of Hispanic or Latino pregnant people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. At the lowest vaccination level were Black pregnant people who were around 16% fully vaccinated. About 35% of non-Hispanic whites who are pregnant are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
The agency also urged people who might become pregnant to get the vaccine to prevent serious illness, death and adverse pregnancy outcomes from the coronavirus.