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LUMBERTON – Health care providers across the region are urging pregnant and breastfeeding women to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Only about 22% of pregnant women have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One reason could be conflicting information leading to uncertainty about the safety of the vaccine, an issue the medical community has faced for less than two years.

“There are, of course, no long-term studies to validate safety at this time,” said Don McKinley, MD, doctor of obstetrics and gynecology at UNC Health Southeastern.

In order to break the fog of fear, doctors and caregivers at UNC Health Southeastern discuss the benefits and risks of getting the vaccine with patients. One fact presented to patients is the danger COVID-19 presents to pregnant women.

According to the CDC, “People who are pregnant and recently pregnant are more likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19 than people who are not pregnant. If you are pregnant, you may be given a COVID-19 vaccine. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 during pregnancy can protect you against serious illness caused by COVID-19. If you have questions about vaccination, a conversation with your healthcare professional may help, but is not required for vaccination.

There is no current evidence that vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems, according to the CDC. But, the data is limited.

“Claims linking COVID-19 vaccines to infertility are unfounded and have no supporting scientific evidence,” part of the information provided to patients at UNC Health Southeastern indicates.

Staff at UNC Health Southeastern tell patients that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), the two leading organizations representing obstetric care specialists, recommend that all pregnant people are vaccinated against COVID-19. . Organizational support for immunization during pregnancy reflects evidence demonstrating the safe use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy for tens of thousands of reporting people over the past few months, and the current low and increasing immunization rates worrying cases.

“Data has shown that COVID-19 infection puts pregnant women at increased risk of serious complications and even death,” part of a statement from ACOG and SMFM read.

Both medical organizations highlight the increased risk posed by the COVID Delta variant as another reason pregnant women should get vaccinated. People who have recently given birth and were not vaccinated during pregnancy are also “strongly encouraged” to get the vaccine as soon as possible, according to the two medical organizations.

“ACOG encourages its members to enthusiastically recommend vaccination to their patients. This means focusing on the known safety of 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 should feel confident in the decision to choose vaccination, and a strong recommendation from their obstetrician-gynecologist could make a significant difference for many pregnant women. “

According to the health system, doctors and other caregivers at UNC Health Southeastern tell their patients there are risks, as there are with all vaccinations. There are mild side effects. They include side reactions to the injection, fatigue, chills, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, and fever.

“So far, the data shows no increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects, premature birth or stillbirth,” said Dr Stuart Shelton, maternal and fetal medicine specialist in Cape Fear Valley. “Basically, there is no increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. The data is still being collected and analyzed.

Shelton is the only maternal fetal medicine specialist, 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 her risk of pregnancy complications is much higher if she gets an infection with COVID than with the vaccine,” Shelton said. “And at this time, we don’t know of any increased risk associated with the vaccine. If it was a family member or a friend, I would strongly recommend that he get the vaccine without any reservations. “

In an effort to collect more data on the problem, the CDC has created the v-safe COVID-19 vaccine pregnancy registry and is inviting people to participate.

“The registry collects health information from people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 during the periconceptional period (in the 30 days before the last menstrual period) or during pregnancy. Information is essential to help people and their health care providers make informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccination. Participation is voluntary and participants can withdraw at any time, ”according to the CDC.

Those wishing to participate must be registered with v-safe, a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health checks after a person has received a COVID-19 vaccine. Thanks to v-safe, a person can quickly notify the CDC of any side effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Based on your responses to online surveys, someone from the CDC may call you to check on your condition and get more information. V-safe will also remind you to receive your second dose of COVID-19 vaccine if you need it, ”the CDC’s website reads in part.

Anyone wishing to participate in v-safe can register online at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/register-for-v-safe.html

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

The results were as follows: “A total of 35,691 v-safe participants aged 16 to 54 identified as pregnant. Pain at the injection site has been reported more frequently in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women, while headache, myalgia, chills and fever have been reported less frequently. Of the 3,958 participants entered in the v-safe pregnancy registry, 827 had a terminated pregnancy, of which 115 (13.9%) resulted in a miscarriage and 712 (86.1%) resulted in a live birth ( mainly among participants vaccinated in the third trimester). Adverse neonatal outcomes included premature birth (in 9.4%) and short stature for gestational age (in 3.2%); no neonatal deaths have been reported. Although not directly comparable, the calculated proportions of unwanted pregnancies and neonatal outcomes in people vaccinated against Covid-19 who had a terminated pregnancy were similar to the incidences reported in studies involving pregnant women conducted before. the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the 221 pregnancy-related adverse events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), the most frequently reported event was spontaneous abortion (46 cases).

The conclusion was that preliminary results did not show clear safety signals in pregnant women who received COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside the body. The advantage of mRNA vaccines is that vaccinated people get protection without risking the serious consequences of becoming ill with COVID-19.

“However, more longitudinal follow-up, including the follow-up of large numbers of women vaccinated earlier in pregnancy, is needed to inform maternal, pregnancy, and infant outcomes,” part of the report. Journal of Medicine article.

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