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Should pregnant and lactating women get COVID-19 vaccine?

Experts say the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh the risk of getting COVID-19, but it's a personal decision.

PORTLAND, Maine — As the cases of COVID-19 continue to roll out, a number of pregnant women are agonizing over getting the shot because of the unknown risks.

Neither Pfizer nor Modern's vaccines included expecting moms in their clinical trials.

Dr. Corrie Anderson, an OBGYN at Northern Light Women's Health was among the first front line health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

"I have operated on and delivered COVID-19 positive patients, my personal risk is high," Dr. Anderson said.

At 17 weeks pregnant, she is even more at risk of experiencing complications, hospitalizations, admissions to the ICU, and preterm birth.  

The only side effect, a slightly sore arm. 

Other side effects can be fatigue and mild fever. 

Dr. Anderson says many of her patients, pregnant health care workers, are eager to get protected against the virus. 

But some are hesitant about getting a vaccine that didn't include pregnant women in clinical trials -- so there is very limited safety data.

"I have definitely had conversations with people who say I am going to take a step back and wait and see how things go," Dr. Anderson said.

Even though the vaccine may not be available to the general public for months, possibly after their babies are born, some moms are agonizing as well.

"I think that's the hardest part of it. There is so much unknown," Cassidy King said.

The mother of a 2-year-old boy named Carter is in her second trimester and isolating at home, lowering her risk. She is also talking to her doctor to make the best decision for herself and her baby.  

"There is a high chance of getting very sick if you do get COVID-19 while pregnant. But again everything with the vaccine is very new and hasn't been tested," King said.

Dr. Rebecca Whitely is an OBGYN at Northern Light Women's Health. She says the messenger RNA vaccines against COVID-19 appears to be safe. A key part is that they do not involve a live virus and enter the nucleus of our cells. 

"They don't alter human DNA in vaccine recipients so as a result of that, RNA can't cause any genetic changes, and just based on the way that we work, we think that they are really safe," Dr. Whitely said.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, advises that the vaccine should not be withheld from women, who are pregnant or lactating. 

Experts say these moms can pass at least some protection on to their children. 

The most important thing is to talk to your doctor to weigh the risk and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine.

A smartphone app called V-safe allows you to text the CDC if you have had any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Information on vaccinating pregnant and lactating women against COVID-19 from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, known as ACOG.

Health Choice Maine is a non-profit focusing on maintaining freedom of medical choice and fully informed consent for all Mainers through advocacy and education. Ashley Roberts, Co-Founder of Health Choice Maine released this statement to News Center Maine. 

“Health Choice Maine supports choice and strongly suggests that pregnant women read all available information and discuss it with their doctor."

Neither of the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers is liable for any adverse reactions caused by the vaccines. The federal government still has not disclosed which adverse reactions will be eligible for compensation through the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program.

Neither available vaccine has demonstrated safety or efficacy for pregnant women, children, or fetuses. Moderna’s EUA specifically restricts administration to individuals over the age of 18 while Pfizer’s EUA restricts use to individuals over the age of 16.

With no data available, this decision must be weighed carefully and left solely to the individual. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should not be subjected to pressure or coercion from either their doctors or their employers. Patients must understand that under the EUA and PREP Act, they have extremely limited recourse for assistance if they experience any adverse reactions.”