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Doc talks vaccine, pregnancy

OB/GYN gives insight into safety precautions, risks

WVU Medicine

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, pregnant patients have been advised to be extra vigilant about safety precautions, including washing their hands, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and wearing a face covering.

Now, nearly a year later, the U.S. is delivering its first shipments of vaccines. On Dec.15, WVU Medicine received its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine and began vaccinating its frontline caregivers, including Dr. Annelee Boyle,  medical director of the WVU Medicine Children’s Maternal Infant Care Center and Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

“I can’t socially distance. I’m the person that gets called when a pregnant woman with COVID-19 goes into respiratory distress, which has helped shape my decision to take the vaccine,”  Boyle said.

As a high-risk pregnancy specialist who was 26-weeks pregnant at the time she was vaccinated, Boyle said the risks associated with getting COVID-19 while pregnant are far worse than the risks associated with the vaccine.

“I weighed the theoretic risks to myself and my baby against the known risks to myself and my baby. And for me, that risk-benefit profile favored accepting the vaccine,” she said. “We know that pregnant women are at higher risk of adverse outcomes with COVID. They have increased risk of hospitalization, need for ICU and mechanical ventilation, and a slight increase risk in death compared to non-pregnant patients.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommend that the COVID-19 vaccine should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet criteria for vaccination based on their recommended priority group.

In addition, the COVID-19 vaccine is believed to be safe for women who are breastfeeding. Live vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women, but the COVID-19 vaccine is not live.

“It’s an mRNA vaccine, which is broken down by the body, and not incorporated into your DNA at all,” Boyle said.

Boyle suggests pregnant and breastfeeding women with questions about the COVID vaccine contact their doctors.

“It’s important to discuss your medical conditions and life circumstances with your doctor, and then make a decision that works best for you and your family,” she said.