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The CDC Strongly Recommends That Pregnant Women Get A COVID-19 Vaccine

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

The CDC has a message for those who are pregnant - get the coronavirus vaccine. The agency is strengthening its recommendation after surveillance data showed no increase of miscarriage among the vaccinated. It warns that failing to get the vaccine increases pregnant women's risk of hospitalization if they get COVID. But there are still questions about getting the vaccine during pregnancy that both researchers and pregnant people would like answers to. A study is underway to get those answers. NPR's Joe Palca visited one of the sites for the study in Texas.

JOE PALCA, BYLINE: Baylor College of Medicine is one of nine centers around the country that will be studying vaccinations during pregnancy.

FLOR MUNOZ-RIVAS: There will be about 750 mothers who are pregnant when they enroll and 250 who are postpartum when they enroll.

PALCA: Flor Munoz is one of the principal investigators for the study, and she runs the program at Baylor. This study is what's known as an observational study. All the people in the study will get the vaccine. There is no group getting a placebo for comparison as there typically would be in a clinical trial. That's because the vaccine is already widely available and recommended for pregnant people. Munoz is glad pregnant people have access to a vaccine...

MUNOZ-RIVAS: But the ability to do clinical trials to really have more specific information on pregnancy was lost.

PALCA: Still, she's confident her study will provide valuable information. For example, she and her colleagues will be trying to figure out whether one vaccine is better than another.

MUNOZ-RIVAS: Pfizer and Moderna are the ones that are used mostly in pregnancy. They might be very similar, but no one has really looked at differences between the vaccines.

PALCA: There's also a question of timing.

MUNOZ-RIVAS: Is there any difference if you get the vaccine the first, second or third trimester, in addition to the different types of vaccines?

PALCA: Munoz says she and her colleagues will also follow the babies born during the study to see whether they inherit some of the protection the vaccines provide to their mothers and, if so, for how long. Emily Podany was eager to sign up when she learned about the study. At the time we talked, she was pregnant with twins. She's also a physician who did a stint in the ICU at the start of the pandemic.

EMILY PODANY: I know what COVID can do to people unvaccinated. I've seen it. And it was horrific.

PALCA: Podany understands the hesitancy some people might have about taking a vaccine that's new and not all that well studied during pregnancy. But she's certain that getting the vaccine was the right choice for her and her twins.

PODANY: I felt like I needed to protect these babies and my daughter. My daughter is 2. She can't get vaccinated. So I felt like I needed to protect her by getting vaccinated. And I felt like if this could protect my twins, absolutely, I would do it.

PALCA: And according to the CDC, pregnancy increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

PODANY: I want to continue my career. I want to have - watch my babies grow up. I don't want to die of something that I could have gotten a vaccine for.

PALCA: Podany is please both she and her babies will add to the knowledge base about the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy. The first results from the study could be ready as soon as this fall. Joe Palca, NPR News, Houston.

(SOUNDBITE OF NORTHCAPE'S "STATIC THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.