CLAIM: posted a correction this month that backtracked on its earlier statements. The journal now admits that the COVID-19 vaccine might not be safe for pregnant women.
THE FACTS: The medical journal did not “backtrack” or suggest that COVID-19 vaccines could be unsafe for pregnant women, as vaccine critics falsely have claimed on social media.
Posts online misrepresent the journal’s Sept. 8 correction, which addressed an update in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, while still arriving at the same conclusion: that the vaccines were not found to be harmful to pregnant people.
The CDC updated an original report on vaccines in pregnant people “to address an issue about how the risk calculation was performed,” according to Jennifer Zeis, director of communications and media relations for NEJM Group.
The initial CDC report, published online in April and in print in June, included only a small portion of people who had been vaccinated early in pregnancy. An accompanying editorial, based on that incomplete information, included an estimated risk for miscarriage before 20 weeks of pregnancy and said the risk was within the expected range for the pregnant population as a whole.
NEJM’s correction deleted that wording, along with the risk estimate. The same day, the journal published a CDC research letter that included additional data and estimated that the risk for miscarriage among individuals vaccinated early in their pregnancies ranged from 14 percent to 19 percent, which the authors said was “within the expected risk range” for pregnant people generally.
March of Dimes statistics indicate that 10 percent to 15 percent of people who know they are pregnant miscarry, but the nonprofit says as many as half of pregnancies might end in miscarriage. The exact number isn’t known, because some people lose their pregnancies before they realize they are pregnant.
The CDC data on which the NEJM’s conclusions were based included people who didn’t realize that they were pregnant until after they were vaccinated. The CDC on Aug. 11 urged all pregnant people to get vaccinated for COVID-19 to protect themselves and their children. Leading obstetrician groups also have recommended the vaccines for pregnant individuals, who face an elevated risk of severe illness if infected with the coronavirus.