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COVID-19 In Pittsburgh: FDA Giving Pregnant And Nursing Women Opportunity To Participate In Vaccine Trials

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - When the Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use Friday, they also unexpectedly left the door open for pregnant and breastfeeding women to receive the vaccine.

The decision comes despite little data available about the vaccine in pregnant and nursing women.

Neither were included in any clinical trials thus far, but Dr. Richard Beigi, obstetrician and president of UPMC Magee-Women's Hospital, says the data that is available shows promise.

"The data is limited, but there's really no solid reason to believe it should be harmful," he said. "It's not a live vaccine."

Beigi says pregnant and nursing women are typically excluded from vaccine research, making it difficult for them to get a vaccine during a public health crisis because health leaders are reluctant to recommend it.

He's pleased the FDA is giving those women the choice this time.

"I think these women should be able to make these informed decisions," he said. "This is the right path."

CDC data does show pregnant women are more likely to experience negative outcomes from COVID-19.

Some health experts, like Beigi, say the FDA's decision now allows women to work with their doctors to compare the risks of the vaccine with the risks of the virus.

"It was a nice decision that balances those risks and then allows the women themselves to make that decision about whether they want to take the vaccine," he said.

With healthcare workers expected to be among the first to receive the vaccine, the CDC says over 330,000 women in healthcare will be either pregnant or postpartum, meaning they'll be among the first to be impacted by the FDA's decision.

Beigi says clinical trials of Pfizer's vaccine and other coronavirus vaccines in the works on pregnant and nursing women are scheduled.

Any woman who is pregnant or nursing and is interested in the vaccine should consult their doctor.

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