The agency said, based on an analysis of growing amounts of data in the v-safe pregnancy registry, the shots are safe for people who are pregnant or plan to be pregnant. According to the CDC, "scientists did not find an increased risk for miscarriage" among people who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy. The agency also said available safety data found no additional risk to people vaccinated later in pregnancy, or to their babies. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the agency cited positive safety results from past clinical trials involving the same vaccine technology, as well as studies in pregnant animals, to conclude the vaccine was safe.
"I would say if you're pregnant, not only is it a good idea to get the vaccine on the basis of safety, but it's highly effective and important because you are at increased risk of bad outcomes if you get COVID," said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
The agency's decision to strengthen its recommendations comes after months ofthat came short of formally advising pregnant people to get the shot due to a lack of safety data. The issue was magnified in late January when the CDC and World Health Organization appeared to differ in their guidance for pregnant people.
The organizations argued at the time that their guidance was the same, and that the issue came down to nuances in how they projected confidence while acknowledging there wasn't enough data to make a full recommendation. The missing data was a result of pregnant women not included in the clinical trials for the vaccines.
Sascha Ellington, lead of the CDC's emergency preparedness and response team within the division of reproductive health, said pregnant people should not be immediately excluded from clinical trials so that there isn't an absence of data.
"We hope this is a lesson for future vaccine trials and I know the manufacturers are doing studies now on vaccination in pregnancy but, you know, really missed the mark to get that information and data pre-authorization," she said.
Ellington said the agency's "less than enthusiastic" guidance coupled with heightened hesitancy towards new medications could be contributing to the "surprisingly low" vaccination rate among pregnant people. According to CDC data, only 23% of pregnant women have received at least one dose of the shot. That would rank last when compared to any of the eligible age groups.
The CDC's update comes nearly two weeks after the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released their own updated recommendations that all pregnant and lactating individuals receive a COVID vaccine. In a statement to CBS News, ACOG president Dr. J. Martin Tucker said the organization "continues to work with the CDC to help ensure that pregnant and lactating people feel confident in the safety and protective value of the COVID-19 vaccines."