RICHMOND, Va. -- The CDC has strengthened its recommendation for pregnant women to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, and Richmond-Henrico health officials are encouraging women to follow it.
The agency is urging pregnant women to get vaccinated, stating the shots are safe and you’ll have an increased risk of bad outcomes if you get COVID-19 and aren't vaccinated.
Rebekah Butterfield, an epidemiologist with the Richmond Henrico Health District, said as a mother of three, she knows how scary it can be being pregnant and being worried that anything could harm your baby. But she added if she was pregnant right now, she would get the shot.
"When you're looking at risk to yourself and your baby, the most important way to consider it is, what is more scary, what is more risky, a vaccine that has been shown to be safe in pregnant women or the thought of getting COVID," she noted.
CDC data shows only 23% of pregnant women have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That ranks last when compared to any of the eligible age groups.
Health experts also note the antibodies you get from vaccination will give your baby some immunity after birth as well.
When you are pregnant, Butterfield said your immune system is a little dampened so you experience disease a little more extremely, making it even more dangerous if you get COVID-19.
"We've seen pregnant women hospitalized and fighting for their lives because they didn't have that added protection and, you know, fighting for their baby's life for the same reason," explained Butterfield.
Butterfield also noted she's hearing children under age 12 could be approved for a COVID-19 vaccine in October, but she added it will likely take longer for those under age 5 to be eligible.
So, what will that mean for social distancing and masking restrictions?
"We're all tired of COVID, but we are getting so close to a point where the vaccine will be approved for everyone," said Butterfield. "And that's the point really, when everyone has had access, and all of our vulnerable populations have the ability to be protected...that is the point where a lot of these wearisome things like limiting our social interactions or masking, those things will start to fall off once we have the ability to protect everyone."
While the health district has seen an increase in people getting vaccinated in Richmond and Henrico since the Delta variant became dominant in Virginia, Butterfield is encouraging Virginians to follow other safety measures like masking indoors until more get vaccinated.
"If we can hold on for just a little more time, you know, keep keep up these mitigation measures, so that we can protect everyone until everyone has that opportunity," Butterfield explained. "And then I think there will be a huge sigh of relief, and things will start to get back to whatever normal will look like in a in a world where COVID maybe sticks around, but isn't as burdensome as it has been the last year and a half."