TRENTON – The New Jersey Health Department is strongly urging pregnant women to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during the latest coronavirus update on Monday in Trenton that new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds pregnant women who test positive for COVID and are symptomatic “are twice as likely to be admitted to intensive care and be put on a ventilator.”

She said the data also shows these individuals are “at a 70% increased risk of death” and also face a higher risk of pregnancy problems.

“That could include preterm birth, stillbirth and admission into the ICU of a newborn, also infected with COVID-19," she said

She noted the data shows “only 31% of pregnant individuals in the United States are vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Persichilli pointed out that vaccination rates vary markedly by race and ethnicity.

She said Asian pregnant women have the highest vaccine coverage at 45.7%, while 25% of Latino pregnant women and 15.6% of Black pregnant women are vaccinated.

She said pregnant women need to understand that not getting vaccinated is putting themselves and their unborn child at risk. “The COVID-19 vaccine will not harm you or the child you are carrying. The important thing is you will be harmed if you are not vaccinated, you’re putting yourself and your fetus at risk.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said the vaccine is very safe and “the big headline for me on pregnant women is it does not impact your fertility – that’s one of these big myths.”

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services at the New Jersey Health Department, said it’s understandable pregnant women may be wary of putting anything that’s not natural into their bodies, and that would include getting a vaccination but “the much, much, much greater risk is not the unnatural vaccine that you would take but the unnatural virus that could invade you instead.”

He stressed “the virus is much, much riskier to the unborn child and to the mother itself than the vaccine, and I’d strongly encourage that pregnant women get vaccinated.”

Persichilli said to make a vaccine appointment you can reach out to the Department of Health's COVID vaccine call center at 1-855-568-0545 or visit covid19.nj.gov/finder.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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