Dr. Riley, who is also the chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine and chair of the Immunization and Emerging Infections Expert Work Group at ACOG, shared with Health Matters what she knows about the Pfizer vaccine and what women who are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or lactating should know.
What is the recommendation for pregnant women?
The recommendation from ACOG, the FDA, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is all the same for pregnant women. If you’re in a high-risk group that’s going to be offered the vaccine, you too should consider getting the vaccine. You should be offered it just like anybody else. You do not need a doctor’s approval. You can make that decision. But if you want to talk more with someone about the pros and cons, then I would suggest you talk to your OB or your midwife.
What about women who are breastfeeding?
They should get the vaccine and protect themselves from getting COVID. The way this vaccine works, there’s no reason to suspect that it gets into breast milk and can in any way get to the child. We give live vaccines to lactating women all the time. If we were really worried about something, it would be live vaccines, and this is not that, so we have zero concern about this. And we definitely don’t want people to stop breastfeeding to get the vaccine.
Should women who are planning to get pregnant have any reservations?
No. They should just go ahead and get it done. If by chance you become pregnant between the first and second dose, you should complete the series and attain the maximal benefit from the vaccine. The last thing they need is to be in the first trimester and get COVID-19. We know that the vaccine is the best possible intervention to protect ourselves from COVID-19.
Is Pfizer planning trials in pregnant women?
Yes. There are two pieces of information that are very reassuring. One, given our understanding of the way the vaccine works within the body, we do not have concerns that it will be problematic for expectant mothers or their babies. Two, there is animal data — and we have not seen all the animal data — but the preliminary report on the animal data from Pfizer suggest that it is not problematic. That animal data had been presented to the FDA before they could start human pregnancy trials. Those pregnancy trials are starting in January 2021, so that means the FDA is comfortable enough with that data to move forward.