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For pregnant women, vaccinations are important. Offering education to assist with vaccine decision -making during pregnancy can help women preserve their health and the health of their babies.

In 2020, the novel coronavirus took advantage of the naïve human immune system and wreaked death and disability around the globe. In 2022, for those who are vaccinated and boosted, the chances of death have declined.  A recent study published in the journal Vaccine underscores the need for healthcare providers to provide support and assistance to pregnant women around vaccinations. 

Conversations around vaccines in pregnancy are routine topics for prenatal care.  Women planning to become pregnant are advised to get up to date on the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine before pregnancy.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend pregnant women obtain a flu shot and the pertussis (whooping cough, Tdap) vaccine. 

COVID-19 took the world by surprise and left pregnant women wondering about their vulnerability and the safety of their children.  At the outset of the pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their babies was not clear.  Since then, research studies have established that pregnant woman are at increased risk for COVID infection along with the children they carry.  Pregnant women with COVID are more likely to be hospitalized, require a ventilator, deliver prematurely, and are at higher risk for serious pregnancy complications and stillbirth.

Between December 2020 and January 2021, a research team from the University of California, Davis used surveys to better understand the attitudes of 387 pregnant women as they considered COVID-19 vaccinations during their pregnancy. Study authors were interested in the perspective of pregnant women just after the COVID-19 vaccine was made available in the US.  Some of the survey results included:

  • Almost all of survey respondents (98.7 percent) were aware of the vaccine.
  • Of these, more than half were hesitant about being vaccinated while 43 percent reported they planned to get the vaccine as soon as they could.
  • Of the vaccine hesitant, 27 percent said they would not get the vaccine as soon as it was available while the remaining 30 percent were simply not sure.
  • Not surprisingly, those who refused the seasonal flu shot were likely to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.

Participants in the survey trusted their healthcare providers to provide information about the vaccine.  Study author Dr. Leigh Ann Simmons said, “There’s a group of people who are hesitant, but it doesn’t mean they won’t get the vaccine. If information about the vaccine is communicated in a way people can make sense of it for themselves, then they can make an informed decision for themselves and for their babies.”

Study authors emphasized the need to meet the patients “where they are”—providing information and opportunity about vaccines and other pregnancy best practices. OBs are uniquely situated to offer knowledge and support to their patients whose “vaccine hesitancy” may actually just be a need for understandable information about what is good for them and their baby.  

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