GENEVA – The World Health Organization (WHO) issued recommendations Tuesday regarding Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, including guidance for pregnant women.
WHO says pregnant women should not receive the Moderna vaccine unless they are at high risk of exposure, such as health care workers. That’s despite the fact that pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
WHO made a similar recommendation for the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech earlier this month.
"Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 than non-pregnant women, and COVID-19 has been associated with an increased risk of pre-term birth," wrote WHO on Jan. 8. "However due to insufficient data, WHO does not recommend the vaccination of pregnant women at this time."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t go as far as saying pregnant women shouldn’t get the Moderna vaccine, but the agency says getting vaccinated is something those with child should discuss with their doctors.
The CDC says pregnant women should consider the following with their health care providers when deciding whether or not to be vaccinated for the coronavirus:
- The likelihood of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
- Risks of COVID-19 to them and potential risks to their fetuses
- What is known about the vaccine: how well it works to develop protection in the body, known side effects of the vaccine, and lack of data during pregnancy
These public health agencies haven’t yet recommended pregnant women get vaccinated for COVID-19 because only limited data is available on the safety of the vaccines when administered during pregnancy. Though, studies in people who are pregnant are planned.
As for women who are breastfeeding, WHO says the vaccine can be offered to them if they’re part of a group recommended for vaccination. Discontinuing breastfeeding after vaccination is currently not recommended by WHO.
Others WHO says shouldn’t get vaccine
WHO says those with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine should not take the Moderna dose or any other mRNA vaccine.
While vaccination is recommended for older persons due to the high risk of severe COVID-19 and death, WHO says very frail older people with an anticipated life expectancy of less than three months should be individually assessed.
Also, WHO says the Moderna vaccine should not be administered to people younger than 18 years of age, pending the results of further studies.
Those WHO says should be vaccinated first
As with all COVID-19 vaccines, WHO says health workers at high risk of exposure and older people should be prioritized for vaccination. As more vaccine becomes available, the organization says additional priority groups should be vaccinated, with attention to people disproportionately affected by COVID-19 or who face health inequities.
Who else WHO says can take the vaccine
WHO says the vaccine is safe and effective in people with known medical conditions associated with increased risk of severe disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, pulmonary, liver or kidney disease, as well as chronic infections that are stable and controlled.
Although further studies are required for immunocompromised persons, officials say people in this category who are part of a group recommended for vaccination may be vaccinated after receiving information and counseling.
Because those living with HIV are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, WHO says HIV-positive vaccine recipients should be provided with information and counseling.
Vaccination can be offered to people who have had COVID-19 in the past, but individuals may wish to defer their own COVID-19 vaccination for up to six months from the time of infection.
Effectiveness of the vaccine
WHO says the Moderna vaccine has been shown to have an efficacy of approximately 92% in protecting against COVID-19, starting 14 days after the first dose of two doses.