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CDC seeks to clarify director's comments on pregnant women, COVID-19 vaccine

CDC seeks to clarify director's comments on pregnant women, COVID-19 vaccine
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday sought to clarify comments from the agency's head on Friday recommending that pregnant women get the coronavirus vaccine.

Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyUS reaching turning point in pandemic amid vaccination concerns Watch live: Fauci, Walensky testify on COVID-19 response efforts Top CDC official who warned of pandemic disruption will resign MORE said during a White House press briefing on Friday that the "CDC recommends that pregnant people receive the COVID-19 vaccine."

But in an email to CBS News on Tuesday, a CDC spokesperson said the agency's stance had not changed from last month, saying that guidance "has always been and remains CDC's recommendation."

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That March guidance is somewhat less strong than a full-on recommendation. It instead says, "If you are pregnant, you may choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine," and "you may want to have a conversation with your healthcare provider."

"Based on how these vaccines work in the body, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant," the guidance adds. "However, there are currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people."

On Friday, however, Walensky had pointed to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. That study found: "Preliminary findings did not show obvious safety signals among pregnant persons who received mRNA Covid-19 vaccines," referring to the ones from Pfizer and Moderna.

"Importantly, no safety concerns were observed for people vaccinated in the third trimester or safety concerns for their babies," Walensky said in describing the study.

"We know that this is a deeply personal decision, and I encourage people to talk to their doctors or primary care providers to determine what is best for them and for their baby," she added.

"What Dr. Walensky said is consistent with the guidance," a CDC spokesperson said Tuesday. "Pregnant women may get the vaccine and all evidence says it’s safer than being unvaccinated. In her remarks, she went on to say that pregnant people should consult with their healthcare provider when considering vaccinations. This isn’t out [of] step with what’s posted on the website which states: Pregnant women may choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. And they may want to have a conversation with their healthcare provider to help decide whether to get vaccinated with a vaccine that has been authorized for use."

While there remains no evidence of safety concerns for pregnant women getting the COVID-19 vaccine, the diverging statements from the CDC could add to confusion for pregnant women.

—Updated at 6:30 p.m.