MSNBC's Katy Tur had been debating getting the COVID-19 vaccine during her pregnancy. Under New York's eligibility requirements, she was eligible to get vaccinated — and she knew that pregnant women are at a significantly higher risk of severe illness and death if they contract the virus. But because the vaccines had not yet undergone trials in pregnant women, she was unsure if she should get the shot.
That all changed when Tur, 37, had a "COVID scare" at home.
"As a pregnant lady — I'm 7 months now — once upon a time I thought that I would probably be at the very back of the line, that I wouldn't get the vaccine until I had the baby," she explained on her show, MSNBC Live with Katy Tur, on Thursday. "But after a COVID scare recently at my own house and conversations with several doctors… I signed up and today I got stuck."
Tur, who is expecting a daughter with husband Tony Dokoupil to join their 21-month-old son Theodore, a.k.a. "Teddy," shared the news on March 11, 2021, the anniversary of the day COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and American life truly changed.
"I can hardly believe it, one year ago, or one year since this country went into lockdown, we already have multiple vaccines that are extraordinarily effective in fighting this virus. And as of today, I am halfway toward being fully vaccinated," she said.
Tur said that to get over her hesitancy, she spoke with several doctors about getting vaccinated while pregnant. They emphasized that pregnant women have been getting vaccinated with no adverse outcomes, and that getting COVID-19 while pregnant carries far more risk.
"I thought that the science behind the development of vaccines and the safety in theory was persuasive, and the risks of getting COVID just so far outweighed the risks of taking the vaccine," Tur told Today Parents. "It was just hammered home [when] we had a COVID scare at my house last week. I was just thinking, 'I've made it a year without getting this; God forbid I get it right now.' "
Doctors in the U.S. are now strongly recommending that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19, with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Centers for Disease Control saying that there is "no theoretical reason" why the vaccine would be dangerous to the mother or the fetus.
Part of the urgency is because pregnant women are at a significantly higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. A recent study of more than 400,000 women with COVID-19 found that those who were pregnant were at a 70% higher chance of death than non-pregnant women, nearly three times more likely to require intensive care and more than three times more likely to need a ventilator. However, the overall risk of death or severe illness from COVID-19 among pregnant women is low.
The COVID-19 vaccines were not initially tested on pregnant women because researchers wanted to focus on creating a vaccine that would work for the general population. However, 23 women in Pfizer's vaccine trial did become pregnant after receiving the vaccine, and none had any adverse effects. Pfizer is now running a large-scale clinical trial of their vaccine with 4,000 pregnant women aged 18 years and older, who are between 24 and 34 weeks of gestation. Half of the women will receive the vaccine, while the other half will receive a placebo.
"Pregnant women have an increased risk of complications and developing severe COVID-19, which is why it is critical that we develop a vaccine that is safe and effective for this population," said Dr. William Gruber, senior vice president of Vaccine Clinical Research and Development for Pfizer.
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