COVID-19 vaccine: Pregnant women, people with underlying health conditions now prioritized

"I think it's great. I also think that it's kind of risky because it's so new for pregnant women to have access to that."
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- State Health Director Dr. Mark Ghaly said Friday that starting March 15 people between ages 16-64 who are severely disabled, and those with health conditions that put them at high risk can get in line for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Bay Area resident Karina Nieves is nine months pregnant and says growing a baby in the middle of a pandemic has been challenging. on Friday, she heard the news she was hoping for months.

"I think it's great. I also think that it's kind of risky because it's so new for pregnant women to have access to that," said Nieves.

Nieves is due on February 22 several weeks before the new expansion goes into effect.

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"The fact that pregnant women were not part of the trials and now they are part of the expansion does that concern you?," Luz Peña asked.

Dr. George Rutherford: "The data on whether pregnant women are already increased risk or not are kind of mixed frankly. And the CDC is trying to err on the side of recommending vaccine for pregnant women. Now on the other hand you are correct there is not enough safety data about this vaccine used in pregnancies."

UCSF Professor of Epidemiology, Dr. Rutherford explained that even though Moderna did not include 16-year-old individuals and younger as part of their trials the vaccines are safe.

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"It's just the way they designed the trials. Pfizer has data on 16, 17 and 18 year olds. Moderna did not start until 18, so if you are 16 or 17 you'll get the Pfizer vaccine," said Dr. Rutherford.

RELATED: California expanding vaccine eligibility to ages 16-64 with underlying health conditions

As the list continues to expand, there are questions as to when those with a weakened immune system will qualify.

"The one thing I would say is if you have Rheumatoid arthritis or lupus or something like that and are on immunosuppressive drugs talk to your doctor very carefully about it because there is a possibility that the drugs will keep the vaccine from taking," said Dr. Rutherford.
Stanford Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Maldonado says the state is following the right data for this expansion.

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"Eighty percent or more of the hospitalizations and deaths in this county are in people over 65 and in people with underlying health conditions," said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, Stanford Professor of Global Health and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Maldonado is part of the state's vaccine review group and believes we will have enough supply to vaccinate more people once this group expansion goes into effect March 15th and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is authorized.

"We are hoping that the first week of March the company can start shipping vaccines out. So we think that by March there should be vaccine pretty quickly but it won't be the full 100 million doses," said Dr. Maldonado.

This is the updated eligibility list:

-Cancer, current with debilitated or immunocompromised state

-Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
-Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent
-Down syndrome
-Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
-Sickle cell disease
-Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (excludes hypertension)
-Severe obesity (Body Mass Index 40 kg/m2)
-Type 2 diabetes mellitus with hemoglobin A1c level greater than 7.5%
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