MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota health institute will be studying how the COVID-19 vaccine impacts pregnant women.

HealthPartners Institute received $2 million from the CDC to help determine if the COVID vaccine has any impact on pregnant women or their babies. Pregnant and breastfeeding women and children were left out of the vaccine trials, which is common in early medication research.

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The CDC says pregnant women are at higher risk for severe illness, death, and possibly premature birth from COVID-19. But there is no formal recommendation on whether or not to get the COVID vaccine. It is available in the U.S. to expecting mothers who want to get it.

“The FDA has really signaled it’s a decision made by pregnant women and their health care providers,” said Dr. Elyse Kharbanda, Senior Research Investigator with HealthPartners.

Bloomington-based HealthPartners Institue will lead a five-year project that looks at any potential risks of pregnancy and birth from the vaccine. The researchers will also review data to see if the vaccine impacts infant development. There are health care providers that are recommending it, and some pregnant health care workers have already received their shots.

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“There’s no reason to say it wouldn’t work and there’s no reason to say it wouldn’t be safe, we just don’t have the data to support that,” said Kharbanda.

The decision is difficult for some expecting moms to make.

“A first-time parent, you’re so cautious about everything you take and everything you ingest that you’re like ‘what is a vaccine going to do?'” said Sammi Forbord. “We’re pregnant and we’re in a pandemic. It’s extra terrifying.”

She and her boyfriend are expecting their first child in the spring. While she doesn’t know when the vaccine will be offered to her, she also doesn’t know if she would take it.

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The CDC says it does not believe the vaccine would pose any specific risks to pregnant women. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is recommending the vaccine for breastfeeding mothers.

Kate Raddatz