Should Pregnant People Get the COVID-19 Booster Shot?

Key Takeaways

  • COVID-19 booster shots are available to people 12 years and older, including those who are pregnant.
  • You can safely get a booster dose of a different vaccine than the one you received in your primary series; Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters are recommended.
  • COVID-19 booster shots are safe and recommended in pregnancy, and they protect both parent and baby from COVID-19 complications and death.

Pregnancy comes with many hard decisions, and how to best manage your COVID-19 vaccination options may be on your list. But expert consensus is clear: The best way to protect yourself from the serious complications of COVID-19 is to get fully vaccinated, and to get a booster shot too.

In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently recommended “urgent action” to increase COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy. CDC data collected in the fall of 2021 revealed that only 31% of pregnant people were vaccinated, even though the risk for severe complications from COVID-19 is higher during pregnancy.

Between January 2020 and January 2022, 28,364 people were hospitalized while pregnant with COVID-19, and 270 pregnant people died from the disease.

Should I Get a COVID-19 Booster During Pregnancy?

COVID-19 variants continue to spread worldwide, even causing breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people. The CDC now recommends booster shots for all individuals ages 16 and older, including those who are pregnant.

Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) all offer booster doses. People ages 12 through 17 are only eligible for Pfizer’s vaccine and booster shot.

If you’re 18 or older, you can get a different brand of vaccine for your booster shot than you received for your primary series. The CDC strongly recommends that you get Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccine for your booster dose, even if you got a J&J shot to begin with.

Getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is especially important during pregnancy. For reasons scientists are still working to understand, people are more likely to have severe symptoms of COVID-19 when they are pregnant.

Being pregnant when catching COVID-19 increases your risk for hospitalization, intensive care, need for a ventilator, and severe illness that results in death. Additionally, people who have COVID-19 during pregnancy are at increased risk of preterm birth and stillbirth, and might be at increased risk of other pregnancy complications.

Getting vaccinated is a key step to keeping yourself and your unborn baby healthy. And with highly contagious variants like Delta and Omicron spreading, it’s important to get a booster dose to stay protected through pregnancy and just after. You are at high risk for COVID-19 complications for at least 42 days following the end of pregnancy, according to the CDC.

“We know that the threat of variants is real but the risk is greatly minimized in those that have been vaccinated and have had a booster,” says Betsy Greenleaf, DO, the medical advisor for pH-D Feminine Health in Howell, N.J.

Will a COVID-19 Booster Harm My Baby?

Pregnant people are encouraged to check ingredients in their beauty products, medicines, and foods, since some may harm a developing fetus. It is natural to wonder how the booster shot may impact your growing baby during pregnancy.

The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe for babies in all trimesters of pregnancy. The CDC has verified that there aren’t any increased risks of miscarriage in those studied groups who received the vaccine, nor is there any increase in birth anomalies.

Heather Masters, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, wants pregnant people to know that it is not the booster they should worry about in regards to their baby’s health, but rather the danger of not getting it. “

This decision to avoid vaccine exposure puts you at higher risk for an even riskier exposure: COVID-19. She says, “Women with COVID-19 during pregnancy have an increased risk of their baby being preterm, admitted to the NICU, and even dying. The risk is not only for you, but for your child too. The decision to get vaccinated is for both your health and your child’s health.”

Cindy Duke, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, virologist, and the medical and laboratory director at the Nevada Fertility Institute, adds that the benefits of the booster shot include decreasing the risk of stillbirth, pregnancy loss, and prematurity that is often caused by COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters during pregnancy can even protect your baby after they are born by supplying them with protective antibodies that may shield them from infection during the newborn period. “A new study has shown that women who have been vaccinated may pass on immunity to their infants, yet another reason to get vaccinated and boosted,” Dr. Greenleaf says.

Dr. Masters explains the process. “When getting vaccinated, women make an increased number of antibodies, even more antibodies than getting the virus itself,” she says. “Some of these antibodies are passed to the baby. When testing the blood of babies of vaccinated mothers, the babies have an increased number of antibodies, suggesting an increased duration of immunity for the babies.”

Heather Masters, MD

The decision to get vaccinated is for both your health and your child’s health.

— Heather Masters, MD

When is the Best Time to Get a COVID-19 Booster Shot While Pregnant?

Some pregnant people are wondering about the best time to receive the booster vaccine while they are pregnant. The most important requirement is that it comes at least two months after your primary dose of the J&J vaccine or at least five months after your second shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

There aren’t any official recommendations that one trimester would be better than another to be vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. The CDC recommends that anyone who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant start and complete their vaccination series as soon as possible.

Some parents are opting to wait to vaccinate until after first trimester, when the miscarriage rate decreases. According to the American College of Obstetricians (ACOG), research shows no increased risk for miscarriage following a COVID-19 shot.

However, the longer a pregnant person waits to get fully vaccinated, the higher their chance is of contracting COVID-19. This can place them at increased risk of preterm birth as well as other potential complications.

Should Breastfeeding Parents Get a COVID-19 Booster Shot?

If you are breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you get the booster as long as it’s been two months since your primary series of the J&J vaccine or five months since your primary series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

It’s been proven that COVID-19 antibodies produced in your body during initial vaccine shots can transfer to your newborn through breast milk. “A booster in a lactating person would theoretically increase available antibodies in the milk, too,” says Dr. Duke.

Getting fully vaccinated and boosted while pregnant or breastfeeding may be one of the best ways you can protect your young baby who can’t get vaccinated themselves. As of now, children need to be at least 5 years old to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

What This Means For You

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should strongly consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot. Vaccination has a significant impact on reducing your risk and your baby’s risk of COVID-19 complications.It’s been proven that antibodies transfer from the vaccinated parent in utero, as well as through breast milk. If you are unsure whether you should get the COVID-19 booster shot while pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to a healthcare provider. They can help you make the best decision for you and your baby.

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