WEDNESDAY, Aug. 11, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Pregnant women should not hesitate to get COVID-19 vaccines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidance issued Wednesday. Previously, the country’s leading health agency had only said that pregnant women were “eligible” for the vaccine.

The latest recommendation comes after new data collected by the agency showed no raised risk for miscarriage in mothers-to-be who get the shots during the first 20 weeks of their pregnancy. Previous research has shown similar safety with the vaccines in women in later stages of pregnancy, the CDC added. The strengthened guideline could boost vaccination rates in a group that has been reluctant to get shots; only 23 percent of pregnant women have gotten COVID-19 vaccines.

“[The] CDC encourages all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., said in an agency news release. “The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people.”

On Monday, groups including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics said data show the vaccine is safe and effective when given during pregnancy and has no impact on fertility. “Pregnant individuals are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection, including death,” the organizations said in a statement. “With cases rising as a result of the delta variant, the best way for pregnant individuals to protect themselves against the potential harm from COVID-19 infection is to be vaccinated.”

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