ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — A study published recently in The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows vaccines are safe and may offer some protection for the babies of pregnant and breastfeeding women. However, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there is still limited and uncertain information about its safety for pregnant and breastfeeding women. This is especially true as it relates to Johnson and Johnson, the newest of the US vaccines. It is behind this uncertainly that the County of Essex is asking pregnant or breastfeeding women to sign waivers before getting vaccinated. 

“I was so excited. It was the day I was going to get vaccinated. You know, pass those antibodies onto my babies through my breast milk, put COVID in the past…my excitement turned to panic when I was asked to sign a waiver because I am breastfeeding,” said a mother who wished to remain anonymous.

According to today's information on the CDC website, “Based on how these vaccines work in the body, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant. However, there are currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people… Clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use under an Emergency Use Authorization in the United States did not include people who are breastfeeding. Because the vaccines have not been studied on lactating people, there are no data available on: - The safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating people. - The effects of vaccination on the breastfed infant. - The effects on milk production or excretion.”

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The waiver the woman was presented to sign held the County administering the vaccination harmless in the event of death or illness of the mother or her baby.

“To me, a waiver means no one truly knows the short-term or long-term effects the vaccine could have on my baby. I could not risk it, even though I wanted to get vaccinated, encouraged my family to be, and my doctor said it was fine, no one truly knows. I left unvaccinated and uneasy.”

Trials for pregnant and breastfeeding women are still underway.  Pfizer recently began a new trial with 4,000 pregnant women.

The CDC is encouraging women who are with-child and vaccinated to enroll in an informational registry: "If you are pregnant and have received a COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage you to enroll in v-safe. V-safe is CDC's smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after vaccination. A v-safe pregnancy registry has been established to gather information on the health of pregnant people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. If people enrolled in v-safe report that they were pregnant at the time of vaccination or after vaccination, the registry staff might contact them to learn more."

Since the pandemic began, pregnant and breastfeeding women have had to weigh the decision: to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. Although small, the risk of severe disease or even death from COVID-19 is higher during pregnancy. Last month, there were over 82,000 coronavirus infections among pregnant individuals and approximately 90 known maternal deaths from the disease in the U.S.