My Vaccine Choice: A Pregnant Ob-Gyn Shares Why She Got a COVID-19 Vaccine
Dr. Vanessa Hux discusses how she thought about her decision.
August 2021: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fully licensed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, also known as Comirnaty. This is a permanent approval that goes beyond emergency use status. Full FDA licensing shows that the vaccine continues to meet high safety and effectiveness standards. Read more about this update from the FDA.
July 2021: ACOG now recommends all pregnant women get a COVID-19 vaccine. Read the latest at Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a trying time for pregnant women. I’ve seen this as an ob-gyn, and I’ve lived it firsthand during my own pregnancy.
My patients come to me with fear, anxiety, and a lot of questions. Once my patients can see that I too am expecting, they seem even more comfortable asking questions about COVID-19. One question seems to be on everybody’s minds: “What do you think about the vaccines?”
My personal story has become an important tool for framing my answer.
Many angles to consider
In deciding whether to get vaccinated myself, I thought about the pros and cons through a few different lenses.
As a pregnant woman, I knew COVID-19 might put me at risk of hospitalization and other serious complications. Then there is my high risk of exposure to the virus. I see patients every day in the office and in labor and delivery. Even though I always wear personal protective equipment (PPE), it is not foolproof.
I was relieved when the vaccines became available, and when I was selected to be among the first to receive a vaccine as a frontline health care worker. Of course, I also wished we had more information about the vaccines’ effects on pregnant and breastfeeding patients. I knew that the data would come eventually, but likely not before my baby’s arrival.
As a doctor, I was impressed that all of the available vaccines were proven to be highly effective. In the world of medicine, that’s huge. Nothing about the vaccines’ technology makes me think they would be harmful to pregnant women or their fetuses. This is true for all of the available vaccines.
I was also all too aware of my increased risk of COVID-19 complications as an African American woman. Data has shown higher rates of serious illness and death among Black and Hispanic individuals who get COVID-19. There are many factors involved in this. The pandemic has highlighted issues of access, bias, and inequities within our health care system.
Then there is the issue of trust. The medical field has a long history of mistreatment of Black and Indigenous communities and other communities of color. This history leads to rightful suspicion in these communities. Even though I support the vaccines, I understand why people of color may be hesitant to take them.
I also looked at the situation through my husband’s eyes. Unlike me, he has no medical background. Everything about our first pregnancy was new for him. Though he trusts me, I suggested he speak with another ob-gyn in my practice to help ease his concerns about the vaccines. Ultimately getting vaccinated was my decision, but it was important to me to have his support.
In the end, I decided the known risk of getting sick from COVID-19 outweighed the unknowns of getting a vaccine. So I chose to get a vaccine. Many of my fellow health care workers have also chosen to be vaccinated during pregnancy. We are relieved to have protection from this dangerous virus.
Doing our part
In the past year, my patients and I have had many conversations about the pandemic. Seeing a pregnant doctor of color who believes in the vaccines may make them more likely to consider getting it themselves. This will always be a personal decision, but I want my patients to have accurate information.
We don’t fully understand COVID-19, but I do trust the science behind the vaccines developed to fight it. It can be hard to sort fact from fiction. I know we can fight misinformation with real stories of people who got a vaccine. That’s why I want to be open, honest, and vocal about my decision.
As an ob-gyn, I will continue to push for clinical studies to include pregnant and breastfeeding women. I’m grateful I still had the choice to get a vaccine, despite the exclusion of pregnant and lactating women from the initial studies. I’m glad that my ability to make this choice is supported by leading medical organizations. And I’m encouraged that studies of the vaccines in pregnant women are starting now, and no safety concerns have been seen so far.
Your personal experience can help others too. If you decide to get a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy, you can join the CDC’s v-safe program to report your side effects and other outcomes. (You also can learn more about the vaccines from the CDC.) You’ll contribute to a growing body of information—and help other women make their own decisions in the future.
Published: March 2021
Last reviewed: March 2021
Copyright 2021 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women's health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.