‘Urgent’ CDC advisory recommends pregnant people get vaccinated against COVID-19

In August, 22 pregnant individuals died of COVID in the United States, officials said.

State health officials urged pregnant people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an urgent health advisory. (File)

State health officials urged pregnant people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an urgent health advisory. (File)

State health officials during a press briefing Friday urged pregnant people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an urgent health advisory.

According to the CDC’s report from Wednesday, the agency is now strongly recommending COVID vaccination either before or during pregnancy.

Dr. Lisa Rabinowitz, a state physician, said Thursday that data shows pregnant individuals are less likely to experience severe COVID after vaccination.

“That is really to prevent serious illness, death and adverse pregnancy outcomes,” she said. “We do know that pregnant people with symptomatic COVID-19 have a 70% increased risk of death.”

In August, Rabinowitz said, 22 pregnant individuals died of COVID in the United States.

“August of 2021 was our highest rate for pregnant (individuals) with COVID dying,” she said. “The benefits of vaccine for both pregnant persons and their fetus or infant definitely outweigh the known or potential risks.”

The CDC also recommends COVID vaccination for individuals who are recently pregnant — including those lactating — and those trying to become pregnant now or in the future.

According to the advisory, only 31% of pregnant individuals have been vaccinated. By ethnicity, pregnant Asian individuals have the highest vaccination coverage at 45.7%, but it is lower among Latinx (25%) and Black (15.6%) pregnant individuals.

The CDC also reported that there have been over 125,000 confirmed COVID cases in pregnant individuals through Sept. 27, which resulted in more than 22,000 hospitalizations and 161 deaths.

“We do know that in pregnant individuals with COVID that are hospitalized, 97% of those individuals are unvaccinated,” Rabinowitz said Thursday.

Pregnant individuals were excluded from COVID vaccine clinical trials early on, but now the CDC is strongly encouraging this demographic to vaccinate.

According to Wednesday’s advisory, a COVID pregnancy is at an increased risk for adverse outcomes, which could include premature birth, stillbirth and the newborn becoming infected from the virus.

In a press briefing last spring, Rabinowitz said data also showed a robust immune response in infants whose mothers received the vaccine. Antibodies from the shot were shown to pass to babies through breastmilk.

This week Alaska surpassed a 60% vaccination rate in eligible residents.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough was below the statewide average on Friday, with 50.6% of residents 12 and older fully vaccinated against COVID and 52.7% of people having received at least their primary dose.

Getting a COVID vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

As an incentive to get the shots, the DHSS and Alaska Chamber of Commerce launched a lottery program for newly vaccinated eligible residents that offers weekly winners a prize of at least $49,000. To find out the eligibility requirements or to enter into the giveaway sweepstakes, visit giveakashot.com. The lottery lasts through Oct. 30.

Many different organizations on the central peninsula, including pharmacies in Walmart and Walgreens and the Kenai Fire Department, offer vaccines. They are also available for both residents and visitors at airports in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.

Additionally, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy hosts a walk-in clinic in its strip mall storefront at the “Y” intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Vaccination appointments can also be scheduled through the online portal PrepMod, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov.

A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov.

People who would like assistance with scheduling a vaccination appointment can call the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center. The center operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. The central peninsula call center can be reached at 907-262-4636. The Homer call center can be reached at 907-235-4636. The Seward call center can be reached at 907-224-4636.

COVID testing locations

Officials encourage anyone with symptoms to test for COVID-19, despite vaccination status.

In Kenai, testing is available at the Chignik Lagoon Clinic, Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center and Capstone Clinic.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Chugachmiut-North Star Health Clinic, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy. Starting Sept. 14, the Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

In Homer, testing is available at South Peninsula Hospital, or through other area health care providers at Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness, Kachemak Medical Group and Homer Medical Center.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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