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How safe will the COVID-19 vaccine be for those pregnant or breastfeeding?

Since July, UofL Health as has seen about 6-10% of pregnant patients who were admitted to University Hospital test positive for COVID-19.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As the first round of COVID-19 vaccines is being rolled out across the country, there are still several question marks for patients -- especially those who are pregnant and breastfeeding.

Is it safe for someone who is pregnant to take the vaccine?

Doctors at UofL Health are hoping to learn more about how the vaccine works on pregnant and breastfeeding patients within the next few months. The group has historically been left out of medical trials because they're considered a vulnerable population, meaning they weren't part of Pfizer or Moderna's study.

Dr. Edward Miller said information available shows the vaccine is both safe and effective, but there are no long-term studies on those things at this time. Still, though, he said has not seen any major impacts on the fetus.

"These vaccines theoretically should have a very low to no risk on genetic problems for a developing fetus, and they also do not incorporate to the adult DNA so there should be no long-term genetic consequences of these vaccines," Miller said.

Doctors said they currently don't see the virus in breastmilk, but said pregnant women are at higher risk if they contract COVID-19. Dr. Sara Petruska said there's a higher chance of needing admission to the hospital or ICU, as well as a small increase in risk for death.

"It doesn't look like there's a huge chance at all for vertical transmission, so for the baby to become infected in the uterus," Petruska said. "Some studies are showing that there may be an increased chance for stillbirth, and that there may be an increased chance for pre-term delivery."

Since July, UofL Health as has seen about 6-10% of pregnant patients who were admitted to University Hospital test positive. They have also seen an uptick in expecting mothers coming to the hospital for triage visits. 

"Definitely have seen a lot of pre-term delivery, whether that's from COVID or from providers," Miller said. "So there's a lot of difficult conversations amongst obstetrics and gynecologist, and maternal-fetal medicine specialist about when is the best time to deliver moms with COVID who may be developing signs and symptoms of severe disease."

When the vaccine does become available to pregnant patients, patients will have the option to choose the vaccine after weighing the risks and benefits for themselves.

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