• The San Juan Daily Star

Health authorities urge pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccine

Puerto Rico Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López

By John McPhaul


Given the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus and the low vaccination coverage in pregnant women, Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López on Tuesday urged expectant mothers in Puerto Rico to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to safeguard their baby and avoid potentially fatal complications after SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the island Health Department have recommended vaccination in this population group after the death of at least five pregnant women as a result of coronavirus infections. Likewise, just over 900 accumulated confirmed cases have been identified in pregnant women.

“To all pregnant women, nursing mothers, women trying to get pregnant or who could become pregnant in the future: After a careful evaluation of the available data, the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices concluded that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the known or potential risks, to both the mother and the unborn baby,” Mellado López said. “This determination is endorsed by professional medical organizations that serve this population, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Vaccination is the best tool that pregnant women have available to protect themselves and their baby and thus reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus. In addition, when they get vaccinated they transfer antibodies that could protect their babies.”

Available scientific evidence shows that vaccination against COVID-19 during pregnancy is safe and effective, the island health chief said. In contrast, the overall risk of becoming seriously ill from the SARS-CoV-2 virus is higher for pregnant women. Additionally, pregnant women with COVID-19 are at increased risk of preterm delivery, “preeclampsia,” “coagulopathies,” and other serious consequences, including death, for both mother and baby. Newborns of people infected with COVID-19 are also at increased risk of being admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit.

Mellado López added that “after the emergence of new variants of the virus and the low vaccination coverage in pregnant women, vaccination is more urgent than ever.”

In the mainland United States, health authorities say that vaccination coverage for pregnant women remains low, despite the recommendations. According to the CDC, as of Sept. 18, only 31 percent of pregnant women had been inoculated. That data has the agency redoubling its efforts to reach this vulnerable population and through vaccination reduce its risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

“We want to increase vaccination coverage in pregnant women to protect expectant mothers and their babies from COVID-19,” said Dr. Nabal Bracero, president of PROGyn. “Pregnant women should be vaccinated, as they will do better during pregnancy amid the pandemic. It is important to note that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant women, future mothers, and their unborn children, providing protection to newborns.”

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