September 17, 2021
By Brenda Castlemain, MS4, Drexel University College of Medicine
As I write this blog post, the City of Philadelphia has entered their second day with the newly reinstated mask mandate: Masks are required in all indoor spaces regardless of vaccine status. Businesses may require proof of vaccination if they choose. Citizens of Philadelphia are encouraged to receive a two-dose course of either Moderna or Pfizer-biotech vaccines if they have not done so already. To put it frankly, everyone is feeling totally sad, myself included. The summer had just begun to blur my memory of the pandemic. I grew accustomed to walking into the drugstore mask-free each day, picking out a Sprite Zero, then leaving with a single pump of hand sanitizer. Of course, masks never left the health care setting, but donning the mask outside the hospital was something I hadn’t done for at least a month.
The delta variant first made an appearance in December of 2020 and quickly became the most common variant in India and Great Britain. After the Fourth of July weekend, an outbreak in Provincetown, Mass. made it clear that the delta variant was here to stay. Of note, around three-fourths of the individuals infected in the Provincetown outbreak had been immunized against COVID-19. “Breakthrough cases” is now a term commonly used in statements released by public health authorities and sadly, these cases are beginning to reignite the sentiment of vaccine hesitancy that has plagued our country for decades.
Our best defense against serious illness and death from COVID-19 is vaccination (in additional to continued hand hygiene, appropriate distancing and mask wearing). As of August 11, 2021, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data indicating the safety of the vaccine during pregnancy. It is now recommended that pregnant people, in addition to all people over the age of 12, receive the vaccine. While no clinical studies have purposefully included pregnant participants, data from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine using a national registry to track adverse outcomes from the vaccine has yet to identify any trend of pregnancy-related events from the vaccine. This is likely the first of what will hopefully soon be a plethora of data demonstrating its safety in pregnant people.
With a novel virus causing a global pandemic, and a new vaccine being rolled out, we were all asked to do something brave by getting the vaccines to protect ourselves but also our communities. Pregnant people had a particularly challenging decision to make, and I think they deserve a lot of credit. Take a minute to think about that: If public health officials asked you to receive a vaccine that hadn’t been tested on someone with your specific health circumstances, what might you want to hear from your doctor or peers to help you make the decision to do so? Now that data is coming in to confirm what we suspected, that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe in pregnancy and is approved for use in pregnant people, it will hopefully make the decision to get vaccinated easier.