COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

On December 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. The vaccine, made by Pfizer and BioNTech, has been shown to be 95 percent effective in large-scale clinical trials.

A second COVID-19 vaccine, from Moderna, was also approved for emergency use on December 18. The Moderna vaccine has a similarly high efficacy rate, 94.1 percent.

But what does this mean for you if you’re pregnant or recently had a baby?

Here’s everything parents and parents-to-be should know about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

In short: Yes, you’ll be able to decide whether to receive the vaccine. But unless you’re a health care worker, it may be a long while before you’re actually inoculated. 

Both vaccines are currently available in very limited quantities. Even when more vaccine formulas become available, they will still need to be produced and shipped at mass scale around the country.

A CDC advisory panel recommends that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities receive the vaccine first, followed by essential workers, people who have medical conditions that put them at increased risk for severe COVID-19 and people older than 65. 

Members of the general public will probably start getting a COVID-19 vaccine by spring 2021.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding?

Vaccine clinical trials typically don’t enroll participants who are pregnant or breastfeeding until the vaccine has been shown to be safely tolerated in people who are not pregnant. So, pregnant and lactating women have been excluded from COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, including the ones for the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that were granted emergency use authorization by the FDA.

However, leading experts from the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) say that despite the lack of safety data, the Pfizer/Biotech vaccine should not be withheld from women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. (The CDC and ACOG have not yet weighed in on whether or not pregnant or breastfeeding women should also have the option to get the Moderna vaccine, but are likely to make a similar recommendation in the next few days.)

Similarly, the CDC says that pregnant and breastfeeding women should be given the option to receive the vaccine. Like ACOG, the CDC notes that while the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has not been studied in pregnant or breastfeeding women, mRNA vaccines are not a live virus, and therefore are not thought to pose a risk to unborn babies or nursing infants. The Moderna vaccine is also an mRNA vaccine.

If you’re a pregnant health care worker and are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine right now, talk to your practitioner if you have any concerns about whether you should receive it. Ultimately, it’s your decision. 

If you are not a health care worker, it will likely be at least a few months before you’re eligible to receive either vaccine. By then, there will be more safety data available as both vaccines roll out to pregnant women, and clinical trials begin recruiting pregnant and lactating participants.

Will babies and children be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The FDA authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use in those 16 years and up, and Moderna for those 18 and up. It will likely take months, if not longer, for babies and younger children to be vaccinated. Only recently have children in the U.S. been included in clinical trials. Pfizer began enrolling children 12 and up in their trials in late September 2020; in December 2020, Moderna started to recruit children aged 12 to 17 for a clinical trial.

Oftentimes, vaccines are tested in healthy adults before researchers will test them in adolescents (those aged 12 and older). If a vaccine is shown to be safe and effective, it’s then usually tested in kids aged 5 to 11, followed by younger children and babies.

Some experts predict that adolescents — likely the first group of children who will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine — won’t be vaccinated until late spring or early summer at the earliest.

Clinical trials in adolescents are only just beginning, and it will take time for experts to analyze the data. If the results are encouraging, then younger children will be studied.

What else should parents know about the COVID-19 vaccine?

Though it will likely be a long time before babies and children can be vaccinated against COVID-19, they may indirectly benefit from it in much the same way that newborns benefit from the Tdap, influenza and measles vaccines — meaning, if everyone around them is vaccinated, they’ll be partially insulated against the viruses, and therefore less likely to contract them.

While the COVID-19 vaccine is likely to play a major role in ending the global pandemic, it won’t eliminate the virus altogether. For the foreseeable future, everyone should continue to wear a mask, social distance and wash their hands often.

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