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Perspective: CDC statement on vaccines plays politics with expecting mothers

Women and mothers are making life and death decisions. They need to know that their sources for medical information are unerring

Charles Krupa, Associated Press

Pregnancy has a way of making a woman constantly wonder, “What is happening to my body right now?” This hyper awareness is certainly evolutionary; how could the human race have survived without pregnant women paying close attention to their health? Women take more care to avoid falls and accidents, pay close attention to what they eat, and reduce or totally eliminate unhealthy habits.

And certainly the past year and a half has been a stressful time to be a pregnant woman. Nobody wants to become infected with a novel virus, but it’s especially nerve-wracking to wonder what that virus might do to your unborn baby.

For most concerned Americans, the rapid development and release of multiple vaccines was a godsend. But for most pregnant women, this introduced another layer of mystery. Again, nobody wants to be infected by a novel virus while pregnant, but no pregnant woman wants to be a guinea pig for a new vaccine, either.

Pregnant women, like myself, faced a choice: Avoid the known risks of the virus by getting the shot or avoid the potentially unknown risks of vaccination. I chose the former in my fifth month of pregnancy in the early spring, and I’m glad I did. A close friend spent close to two weeks on a ventilator this summer when she was infected after she decided to forgo vaccination.

Pregnant women need transparent facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help them judge the safety of the vaccine. Americans needed to be reassured of one thing: That the agency is laser-focused on physical health in regard to a deadly virus, without any hint of politicization to be found in its recommendations. But with a new advisory this week, the CDC decided instead to capitulate to a woke minority of Americans who insist on pretending that it’s not just women who can get pregnant; no, we have to instead use the term “pregnant people” in order to incorporate the entire imaginary population of potentially childbearing individuals.

We’re expected to suspend our belief in biological reality and pretend that it’s not just women who can bear children, but instead that this is a universal ability, shared by all. It’s preposterous on its face, and it’s the game our largest public health organization is currently playing while the pandemic goes on.

A look at the recent data indicates just how reticent pregnant women are to opt for the shot.

According to CDC data, only 31% of pregnant people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and vaccination rates vary markedly by race and ethnicity. Vaccination coverage is highest among Asian people who are pregnant (45.7%), but lower among Hispanic or Latino pregnant people (25%), and lowest among Black pregnant people (15.6%).

Public health officials are concerned by these numbers, especially given the fact that pregnant women are more at risk of complications from the virus (a 70% increased risk of death). That’s why the CDC issued an urgent health advisory on Wednesday:

CDC issued an urgent health advisory to increase COVID-19 vaccination among people who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), who are trying to become pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future to prevent serious illness, deaths, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

According to Gallup, their “data show that Republicans have particularly low confidence levels in major societal institutions that one might expect would be at the forefront of vaccine persuasion efforts — including the government, science, the media and educational institutions. The data on science are particularly revealing, with 79% of Democrats saying they have a great deal or a lot of confidence in science, compared with 45% of Republicans. Similar partisan gaps emerge in confidence in news media, education and the federal government.”

Everything about this pandemic, from vaccines to masks to mandates, has become politicized. Which is why over the course of the past year and a half we’ve needed public health officials who are beyond reproach, who can be trusted implicitly. That’s what Americans deserve, but it’s not what we have.

By asking pregnant women to sign up for a new vaccine, the CDC is asking millions of American families to take a leap of faith based on trust. If they were truly interested in earning and growing that trust, we wouldn’t be seeing politically charged statements about pregnant “people.” What is necessary is an acknowledgment of biological reality and respect for the tough decisions that mothers are making about the safety of their unborn children. People aren’t making these life or death decisions; women and mothers are. They need to know that their sources for medical information are unerring.

Unfortunately, what we have instead is public health officials denying the most basic biological science we learned as toddlers while simultaneously expecting Americans to trust them on complex issues during the most vulnerable period of a woman’s life.

Bethany Mandel is a contributing writer for the Deseret News, editor at Ricochet.com and a contributor to the Washington Examiner blog and magazine.