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Physician reveals: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant

Dr. Rebecca MacDonell-Yilmaz understands why pregnant women may hesitate to get vaccinated against COVID-19. For a short time last winter, she was one of them.

A palliative site supervisor for HopeHealth, MacDonell-Yilmaz had to decide whether to get vaccinated against the virus when she was offered the first shot of the vaccine last December. She was pregnant with her daughter who was due in February and little scientific evidence to guide her.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows only 11.1% of pregnant women were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 between December 14, 2020, and May 8, 2021.

Pregnant hospice and palliative care doctor proudly holds up her COVID-19 vaccine card
Rebecca MacDonell‑Yilmaz, MD MPH, proudly holds up her COVID-19 vaccine card after getting the second dose.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a time to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. As the COVID-19 Delta variant becomes an increasingly troublesome concern for many, soon-to-be and new mothers will need to consider the risks of contracting the virus.

As a physician and a researcher, MacDonell-Yilmaz knew the vaccine was safe and effective for the general population. The fact that pregnant women were excluded from clinical trials last year gave her pause because she wanted to protect her baby’s health. After looking at the available scientific research and consulting with her OB-GYN, she decided to get the vaccine. Her healthy baby daughter was born in February.

MacDonell-Yilmaz shares her story in an op-ed published July 27 in the Providence Journal. She hopes it will help other women who are pregnant or breastfeeding make an informed decision about the vaccine and choose to protect themselves and their baby from a very unpredictable virus.

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