NEWS

WHO: Both COVID-19 Vaccines OK If You're Pregnant

A pregnant white woman receiving a vaccine by a Black female healthcare professional. Both are wearing face masks.

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Key Takeaways

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both recommend that people who are pregnant get vaccinated with either of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Information about COVID-19 vaccine safety for pregnant people has been confusing, but the WHO’s most recent recommendation is in line with ACOG's previous position statement.
  • While the updated guidance advises that the vaccines are safe, any person (including those who are pregnant) should talk to their healthcare provider about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its interim guidance on the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine. While there is minimal data available, the WHO stated that it has found no reason to withhold the vaccine from people who are pregnant.

Updated WHO Guidance

Information about COVID-19 vaccine safety for people who are pregnant has been varied, but the new recommendations should address any confusion. The WHO’s updated guidance is now in line with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) position statement, which advised that both COVID-19 vaccines should be available to pregnant people who want to get vaccinated. Prior to the January 26 update, WHO suggested pregnant women should not receive the Moderna vaccine.

“It is reassuring that both vaccines do not contain a live virus,” Ronald Gibbs, MD, clinical professor, obstetrics and gynecology, maternal-fetal medicine at Stanford University, tells Verywell. “The bottom line is that pregnant women should be empowered to make their own informed decision, and as a class should not be excluded from receiving the vaccination.”

Pregnancy: A COVID-19 Risk Factor

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists pregnancy as a condition that increases a person's risk for severe COVID-19 illness if they are infected with the virus.

According to the CDC, pregnant people who get COVID-19 are at an increased risk for ICU admission, the need for mechanical ventilation, and preterm labor.

ACOG states that pregnant people should work with their physicians to make an informed decision that considers the pros and cons of vaccine administration, as well as consider individual health status and any risk factors a person may have. 

The CDC states that pregnant people who are in a class that is currently approved to receive the vaccine (such as a healthcare worker) should not be denied a vaccine if they choose to receive one.

Current Vaccination Safety Data

Currently, there is not much data on COVID-19 vaccines and people who are pregnant. Early-stage data from studies performed in a laboratory with pregnant rats did not raise any safety concerns.

Data on potential risks are currently unknown because pregnant people have not yet been included in clinical trials. 

The mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus, nor do they enter the nucleus of the cell or alter human DNA. For this reason, experts suspect that the vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to pregnant people or fetuses.

In its Practice Advisory from February 4, ACOG states that based on how the vaccines work and the safety and efficacy demonstrated during clinical trials, "it is expected that the safety and efficacy profile of the vaccine for pregnant individuals would be similar to that observed in non-pregnant individuals."

However, because pregnant or lactating people were not included in those trials, ACOG also states that "there are no safety data specific to mRNA vaccine use in pregnant or lactating individuals and the potential risks to a pregnant individual and the fetus are unknown.”

Making Informed Decisions

If you are currently pregnant and want to discuss COVID-19 vaccination with your provider, ACOG outlines talking points and factors to consider when making an informed decision:

  • The level of activity of the virus in the community
  • The potential efficacy of the vaccine
  • The risk and potential severity of maternal disease (including the effects of disease on the fetus and newborn)
  • The safety of the vaccine for the pregnant patient and the fetus

A conversation with your doctor is advised, but it is not mandatory and should not prevent you from receiving a vaccine. A pregnancy test is also not required to receive the vaccine.

ACOG does recommend several considerations for pregnant people who plan to get a vaccine:

  • Pregnant patients who decline vaccination should be supported in their decision. 
  • Vaccination of pregnant individuals with a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine may occur in any setting authorized to administer these vaccines. 
  • Expected side effects should be explained as part of counseling patients, including that they are a normal part of the body’s reaction to the vaccine and developing antibodies to protect against COVID-19 illness.

What This Means For You

If you are pregnant, the WHO and ACOG have recommended that you get either of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available. While it is not required, talking to your provider about the vaccine can be helpful. It gives you the opportunity to ask questions or voice any concerns you may have, and it also allows your provider to make sure that you do not have any risk factors that could make the vaccine a less safe option for you.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization (WHO). The Moderna COVID-19 (mRNA-1273) vaccine: what you need to know. Updated January 26, 2021.

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). ACOG and SMFM joint statement on WHO recommendations regarding COVID-19 vaccines and pregnant individuals. Updated January 27, 2021.

  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. People with certain medical conditions. Updated February 3, 2021.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim clinical considerations for use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States. Updated January 21, 2021.

  5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Vaccinating pregnant and lactating patients against COVID-19. Updated February 4, 2021.