Less than one-third of pregnant people in the United States has been vaccinated against COVID-19, despite studies that the vaccine is safer for pregnancy and birth than getting sick with the coronavirus. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Fewer than one-third of pregnant people in the United States are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Through Sept. 27, more than 125,000 confirmed cases of the virus were reported among pregnant people, the agency said.
Of these, 22,000 required hospitalization and 161 died, including 22 deaths in August alone.
Based on agency figures, pregnant people who experience illness, with symptoms, are twice as likely to be admitted to a hospital intensive care unit and 70% more likely to die from the disease.
"Pregnancy can be both a special time and also a stressful time -- and pregnancy during a pandemic is an added concern for families," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said in a press release.
"I strongly encourage those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to talk with their healthcare provider about the protective benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe," she said.
In addition to the new CDC data, pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk for complications, such as high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia and preterm delivery, according to a study published in August by JAMA Pediatrics.
CDC research, also released last month, found that the COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are all safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
A separate study published by JAMA in August found that vaccine-related side effects in pregnant people generally are mild and do not impact the health of the unborn baby.
Vaccinated pregnant people also may pass their virus protection to their newborns, research suggests.
Given this evidence, the CDC issued an urgent health advisory last month to increase COVID-19 vaccination among people who are pregnant, recently pregnant, trying to become pregnant or who might become pregnant.
Vaccination, the agency said, can help prevent serious illness, deaths and adverse pregnancy outcomes caused by COVID-19.
The CDC recommends vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits for both pregnant people and their fetus or infant outweigh known or potential risks, it said.
Vaccination rates among pregnant people in the United States vary by race and ethnicity, with 46% of Asian pregnant people fully vaccinated, while 25% of Latin pregnant people and 16% of Black pregnant people are fully vaccinated, according to the agency.