Pregnant women eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Ohio, but is it safe?

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CLEVELAND – Nicole Palm is expecting her second child in April.

As a pregnant woman, she’s at higher risk for severe illness because of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s been very stressful, to be honest,” Palm said. She also works as a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist in a Cleveland Clinic intensive care unit, near COVID-19 patients.

“I was very worried about contracting the disease and potentially becoming very ill and becoming a patient in my ICU myself,” Palm said.

After weighing the information about available vaccines, Palm chose to be vaccinated when health care workers became eligible in December.

“The risk-benefit balance favored getting the vaccine to help protect myself. So I could be here to take care of this child as opposed to potentially getting the disease and fairing very poorly with it,” Palm said.

All pregnant women in Ohio became eligible for vaccination Thursday, and many are wondering if it’s safe. The group was not deliberately included in initial clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, though some participants became pregnant and are being monitored. Additional studies are planned.

According to the CDC, “Currently, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. However, data are limited about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people who are pregnant.”

The CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have developed monitoring systems to capture safety information about vaccination during pregnancy.

“We are recommending that all pregnant patients, now that they’re eligible, should get the vaccine,” said Dr. Tosin Goje, a Cleveland Clinic obstetrician gynecologist and infectious disease specialist.

Goje said pregnant women should first talk with their doctors about COVID risk and exposure, and whether to be vaccinated.

“They should ask questions from their health care providers, get to know how the vaccines work and how they protect them,” Goje said.

New data is becoming available from women who became pregnant during initial trials and pregnant health care workers who have received the vaccine.

“I felt the data and science really supported that this was the safest thing to do,” Palm said.

Health experts said it’s important for pregnant women to minimize exposure to the coronavirus as much as possible because of their increased risk for severe illness. They recommend minimizing high-risk activities and following the universal precautions of social distancing, masking and hand washing.

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