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CDC Recommends COVID-19 Vaccination for Pregnant Women as Military, Employers, and More Rollout Vaccination Mandates

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released official guidance recommending pregnant women receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In a shift away from its previous stance on whether immunization to the coronavirus is safe for expectant mothers, the CDC said it found no increased risk of miscarriage linked to the vaccines.  

The Wednesday announcement “comes two days after more than 20 health organizations urged vaccinations for pregnant women, those who have recently been pregnant and those who plan to become pregnant,” The Washington Post reported. “And the statement arrives more than three months after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said immunization during pregnancy is safe.” 

Under previous guidance from the CDC, neutrally noting that pregnant women were allowed to receive the vaccine while not outright recommending immunization, vaccination rates are low among this population in the United States. The Hill estimated that only 23 percent of pregnant women in the country have received at least the first shot of the vaccine.  

“COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people aged 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future,” the CDC said on 11 August. “Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people.” 

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is expected to recommend booster shots as current vaccines are under analysis. Researchers are attempting to determine their efficacy in preventing infection wanes over time, “which has huge public health implications with so many Americans still unvaccinated,” Axios reported 

While the vaccines continue to entirely protect against death from COVID-19 and widely prevent a serious case of infection, studies and research indicate that the vaccines are becoming less formidable against milder infections. Both Moderna and Pfizer reported that they think boosters will be necessary in response to decreasing vaccine efficacy.   

“At an individual level, that’s not a huge deal,” Axios said. “But on a population level, it has tremendous consequences, as the data also suggests that people with breakthrough cases can effectively transmit the virus. More transmission means more disease among the unvaccinated, and more disease among the unvaccinated means—as we’re seeing play out in the South—increasingly overwhelmed health systems. And, ultimately, the more the virus spreads, the more likely it is that new variants emerge.” 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to announce later this week the authorization of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for persons who have weak or weakened immune systems.  

In July, the CDC estimated that 2.7 percent of adults in the country are immunocompromised, which includes those with malignant tumors, HIV-positive persons, people taking immunosuppressive medicine for medical treatments (such as organ transplants), and others. Meanwhile, immunocompromised persons account for 44 percent of hospitalized breakthrough cases—where the virus has “broken through” the individual protection provided by the vaccine—in the United States.  

“A recent study by Johns Hopkins researchers found that vaccinated immunocompromised people are 485 times more likely to end up in the hospital or die from Covid-19 compared to the general population that is vaccinated,” CNN reported. 

The Biden Administration is considering rolling out a national strategy concerning booster shots in September, which, CNN added, would apply to all vaccinated persons, not solely those with weakened immune systems.  

The U.S. military also announced on 9 August that it will require all military members to be vaccinated by mid-September. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin shared his decision to require vaccinations in a memo, which U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, followed-up with his own endorsement.

"The secretary of defense intends to mandate vaccinations for all service members in the coming weeks," Milley wrote. He added in a hand-written section: "Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a key force protection and readiness issue."

But when it comes to the first or second shots (depending on which vaccine is distributed), some organizations have recently begun mandating that employees be fully vaccinated.  

Tyson Food Inc. reported that an estimated 5,400 of its employees have either received the first shot or been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Last week, the meat processing company announced that its entire U.S. workforce must be fully vaccinated by November. Amtrak made a similar announcement, saying it will require all employees to be fully vaccinated by November or else undergo weekly testing. Dozens of corporations—including Walmart, Apple, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Target, Facebook, Twitter, McDonald’s, Disney, JPMorgan Chase, Caterpillar, Amazon, and General Motors—have issued mandates requiring masking and/or vaccinations for parts of their workforces.  

Effective 12 August, California became the first state to require either weekly testing or full vaccination for its teachers as the U.S. state deals with more children contracting the virus and an average of 100,000 new daily cases. Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that California’s more than 1,000 school districts must be in full compliance by 15 October.  

“A similar mandate requiring state employees and workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings to provide proof of vaccination or be subject to testing went into effect last week,” The Hill reported 

Some jurisdictions are seeing pushback against vaccine mandates from police departments, however, even as infections in some departments are steeply rising. The San Francisco Deputy Sheriff’s Association announced on Facebook that the city’s deputies would either quit or request early retirement in response to the mayor’s new vaccination mandate for law enforcement.  

And Axios reported that police beyond California are expected to bristle against similar mandates. Officials in Denver, Colorado, and New York City, New York, however, are warning of consequences for law enforcement officers that ignore local vaccination mandates—including termination.

On Thursday, national police union The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) released an updated list of COVID-19 deaths among law enforcement personnel. Of the more than 500 deaths, the highest death tolls were in Texas, California, New York, and Florida. 

“The FOP knew at the beginning of the pandemic that law enforcement officers on the front lines combating this pandemic—more than 90 percent of whom will be responding from local and state agencies—would be increasingly vulnerable to contracting the virus,” the group said. “...As we had feared, the virus has claimed the lives of many, and now includes a growing number of law enforcement officers." 

But there is also friction in the other direction as teachers and school districts protest, defy, and sue in response to state orders forbidding masks in schools, including in Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Utah. Schools in other states are reconsidering how to deal with rising case numbers, such as requiring masks in defiance of state prohibitions and resuming virtual classes.