The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its strongest plea yet to pregnant women: get the COVID-19 vaccine. And health care providers nationwide are echoing the agency’s recommendation by urging their patients to protect themselves and their babies against the deadly virus.

“If you are pregnant, you should absolutely get yourself vaccinated as soon as possible,” Dr. Shikha Jain, University of Illinois Chicago assistant professor of medicine, told Yahoo Finance Live. “We know that the virus is very dangerous for pregnant women and potentially even for their unborn babies and that the vaccine is very safe. We've seen that across the world in vaccines given out to women who are pregnant.”

The urgent advisory from the CDC and health care providers follows data showing symptomatic pregnant women with COVID-19 have more than a two-fold increased risk of requiring ICU admission and invasive ventilation, as well as a 70% increased risk of death.

As of Sept. 27, more than 125,000 pregnant women had been infected with COVID-19, resulting in more than 22,000 hospitalizations and 161 deaths. And August was the deadliest month of the pandemic on record for pregnant women, with a total of 22 deaths.

Despite data showing COVID-19 vaccines are safe for those who are pregnant, many women have held off on getting a shot. According to CDC data, less than one-third have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I have told every single one of my friends, my colleagues, anyone who has asked me, if they are pregnant, they absolutely should get the vaccine,” Jain said. “I know many of my colleagues who were pregnant early on, they have all gotten vaccinated and not a single one has regretted it.”

The decision to remain unvaccinated by the majority of pregnant women has led to increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as stillbirth, preterm birth and admission to neonatal intensive care units, according to the CDC.

Booster shots for pregnant women could ‘come in the future’

For the 31% of pregnant women who are vaccinated, the next question is whether or not a booster shot should be administered. So far, the CDC has not recommended a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for those who are expecting, but that could change soon, according to Jain.

“I do think that's something we'll need to discuss and look into more. We do know pregnancy in general does put you at risk of being a little bit more immunocompromised than if you weren't pregnant,” said Jain. “I wouldn't be surprised if this recommendation comes in the future.”

“But right now the biggest thing I want to emphasize is if you are pregnant, you should absolutely get yourself vaccinated as soon as possible,” Jain added. “The pregnant women we are seeing in the hospital who are very sick are the ones that are not vaccinated.”

Seana Smith anchors Yahoo Finance Live’s 3-5 p.m. ET program. Follow her on Twitter @SeanaNSmith

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