TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) – Health leaders are responding to concerns about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for women who are pregnant.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged pregnant women to get the vaccine. This comes as they report hospitals across the country are seeing a disturbing trend of unvaccinated mothers-to-be seriously ill with the virus.

At Ballad Health’s Wednesday media briefing, they invited an ETSU OB/GYN and chief medical officer to address concerns about the COVID vaccine, pregnancy and fertility.

Dr. Sheri Holmes said research shows COVID vaccines are safe for pregnant women, those who are breastfeeding and women trying to get pregnant. She also encourages them to get the vaccine.

She said one concern is that a sick mother can produce a sick baby, and the vaccine can protect an expecting mother from getting critically ill with COVID-19.

“Infections at birth for the newborn can be very, very serious and even result in death. Vaccination is the best protection for the mother and the indirect passage of the antibody for the baby,” said Holmes.

Dr. Holmes added research does not show any negative effect to an unborn child from the mother receiving the vaccine while pregnant.

The CDC reports expectant women run a higher risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications from contracting the coronavirus, including even miscarriages and stillbirths. But their vaccination rates are low, with only about 23% having received at least one dose, according to CDC data.

Holmes said a lot of women are concerned about fertility issues stemming from the COVID vaccine. She said Wednesday there is no credible proof through research that the vaccine causing issues with fertility.

Holmes said while she supports women getting the vaccine while expecting, she does recommend pregnant women consult with their providers.