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LUMBERTON – Healthcare providers in the area urge pregnant and breastfeeding women to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

According to the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 22% of pregnant women received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. One reason could be conflicting information that creates uncertainty about the safety of the vaccine, a problem that has preoccupied the medical community for less than two years.

“Understandably, there are no long-term safety validation studies at this point in time,” said Don McKinley, MD, obstetrician and gynecologist at UNC Health Southeastern.

To break the fog of fear, UNC Health Southeastern doctors and nurses discuss the benefits and risks of vaccination with patients. One fact presented to patients is the danger that COVID-19 poses to pregnant women.

According to the CDC, “pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to develop COVID-19 more severely than non-pregnant people. You can get a COVID-19 vaccination if you are pregnant. A COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy can protect you from serious illness caused by COVID-19. If you have any questions about the vaccination, it may be helpful to talk to your doctor, but this is not necessary for the vaccination. “

According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence that vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems. But the data is limited.

“Claims linking COVID-19 vaccines to infertility are unfounded and there is no scientific evidence to back them up,” UNC Health Southeastern said in information sent to patients.

UNC Health Southeastern staff tell patients that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), the two leading organizations representing obstetricians, recommend that all individuals be pregnant be vaccinated against COVID-19. The organizations’ support for Vaccination During Pregnancy reflects the evidence of the safe use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy by tens of thousands of reporters over the past few months, as well as the current low vaccination rates and surge in cases.

“Data has shown that COVID-19 infection puts pregnant people at increased risk of serious complications and even death,” said a press release from the ACOG and the SMFM.

The two medical organizations point to the increased risk of the COVID delta variant as another reason why pregnant women should get vaccinated. People who have recently given birth and were not vaccinated while pregnant are also “strongly encouraged” to get vaccinated as soon as possible, according to the two medical organizations.

“ACOG encourages its members to be enthusiastic about recommending vaccinations to their patients. This means highlighting the known safety of the vaccines and the increased risk of serious complications associated with COVID-19 infection, including death, during pregnancy, “said Dr. J. Martin Tucker, President of ACOG. “It is clear that pregnant women need to be confident in their decision to vaccinate, and a strong recommendation from their obstetrician-gynecologist could make a world of difference for many pregnant women.”

UNC Health Southeastern doctors and other caregivers tell their patients that there are risks, as is the case with all vaccinations according to the health system. There are slight side effects. These include injection side reactions, fatigue, chills, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, and fever.

“So far, the data show no increased risk of miscarriages, birth defects, premature births or stillbirths,” said Dr. Stuart Shelton, Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist at Cape Fear Valley Perinatology. “In principle, there is no increased risk of unwanted pregnancy outcomes. Data is still being collected and analyzed. “

Shelton is the only maternal fetal medicine or perinatologist in Cumberland County and has practiced in Fayetteville for 19 years, according to Cape Fear Valley Health.

“I think the vaccine is safe, and I tell the patient that if she gets COVID, her risk of pregnancy complications is much higher than with the vaccine,” Shelton said. “And at the moment we are not aware of any increased risks associated with the vaccine. If it was any of my family members or friends, I would highly recommend vaccinating themselves without reservation. “

In order to collect more data on this topic, the CDC has set up the v-safe COVID-19 vaccine pregnancy register and invites you to participate.

“The registry collects health information from people who received a COVID-19 vaccination during perception (within 30 days before the last menstruation) or during pregnancy. The information is critical in helping people and their healthcare providers make informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccination. Participation is voluntary and participants can unsubscribe at any time, ”said the CDC.

Individuals wishing to participate must be registered with v-safe, a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to conduct personalized health checks after a person has received a COVID-19 vaccine. Through v-safe, a person can quickly inform CDC about side effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Depending on your responses to the web surveys, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information. V-safe will also remind you to get your second dose of COVID-19 vaccine if you need one, “the CDC website states.

Anyone who would like to take part in v-safe can register online at

The New England Journal of Medicine, in an article published April 21, included v-safe data collected from December 14, 2020 through February 28.

The results were: “A total of 35,691 v-safe participants aged 16 to 54 years were identified as pregnant. Injection site pain was reported more frequently in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women, while headache, myalgia, chills, and fever were reported less frequently. Of the 3958 participants who were entered into the v-safe pregnancy registry, 827 had a completed pregnancy, of which 115 (13.9%) led to a loss of pregnancy and 712 (86.1%) led to a live birth (mostly at Participants with vaccination in the third trimester). Adverse results in newborns included premature birth (9.4%) and small size for gestational age (3.2%); no neonatal deaths were reported. Although not directly comparable, the calculated proportions of adverse pregnancy and newborn outcomes in people vaccinated against Covid-19 who had a completed pregnancy were similar to those in studies of pregnant women conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic. Of 221 pregnancy-related adverse events reported to VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), the most commonly reported event was spontaneous abortion (46 cases). “

The conclusion was that preliminary results showed no obvious safety signals in pregnant individuals who received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response in the body. The advantage of mRNA vaccines is that vaccinated individuals receive protection without risking the serious consequences of contracting COVID-19.

“However, extended follow-up, including follow-up to large numbers of women vaccinated earlier in pregnancy, is required to inform maternal, pregnancy and infant results,” the Journal of Medicine article states.

About Ellen Lewandowski

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