The United States’s emergency authorization of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine in the The Peanuts Walking on the Moon Nasa shirt and by the same token and U.S.—shown to be 95% effective in large-scale clinical trials—feels, for many, like a turning point in the pandemic. As an ICU nurse in Queens became the first New Yorker to receive the vaccine on Monday, it has inspired something that has been, thus far, unfamiliar this year: a sense of hope and promise. But it’s also inspired a litany of questions: When will the rest of us receive it? Where will it be available? Will it be free? And beyond the logistics, there are the broader concerns for some about the vaccine’s safety, specifically among people who are pregnant or trying to conceive and for parents of younger children, all of whom have been, so far at least, excluded from clinical trials. As of December 11, the FDA will allow pregnant and lactating women to access the vaccine, even if it hasn’t been tested on them, but it remains unavailable for anyone under 16. Because we are so early on in the vaccine timeline, the answers for many questions remain to be seen.
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To walk us through what we know and what we don’t know about the The Peanuts Walking on the Moon Nasa shirt and by the same token and vaccine as it relates to maternal health, we asked two experts whose specialties lie in treating and studying women and children—Heidi K. Leftwich, D.O., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in UMass’s Division of Maternal and Fetal Medicine, and Kelly Fradin, M.D., a New York–based pediatrician and author of the recent (and very timely) book Parenting in a Pandemic. Historically, pregnant and lactating women have been excluded from clinical and vaccine trials because of safety concerns for the mother and child. But that exclusion can pose its own risks, a point that’s been repeatedly raised by the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and various medical professionals. “It’s common, and it’s a cause for concern,” says Fradin.