INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's top health official on Wednesday emphasized the need for pregnant people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said she is concerned that people who are pregnant are putting off getting the vaccine. She added that data shows that COVID-19 is associated with more severe disease in women who are expecting than those who are in the same age range and not pregnant.
"The COVID-19 vaccine is safe to get if you are pregnant," Box said. "Please do not put yourself or your baby at unnecessary risk. Our goal would be for all women of childbearing age to get this vaccine before they become pregnant, so they are protected from COVID when they become pregnant."
Box continued saying that COVID-19 increases the risk for stillbirth and that patients who are preterm with COVID-19 have a rate of intensive care unit admissions that is more than twice as high than women who are not pregnant. They are also nearly three times as likely to need to be placed on a ventilator and have an increased risk of dying COVID-19, Box said.
Box also stressed that there is no evidence-based study showing that the COVID-19 vaccine or any other shot decreases a person's fertility.
Chief Medical Officer Lindsay Weaver also discussed the need for eligible children ages 12 and up to get the vaccine. Pfizer recently sought approval to provide a smaller dose of its vaccine to children ages 5-11.
"I think it's really important for people to recognize that kids do get sick from COVID," Weaver said. "We have had kids hospitalized and we have had children die from COVID here in Indiana."
Box said she is worried the politics of the COVID-19 vaccine will contribute to a decrease in the number of people getting other needed vaccines.
"I do have some concerns about this bleed-off with COVID vaccines and the political nature that has surrounded that will then bleed off into other childhood vaccines and influenza vaccines that people tend to get on a yearly basis," Box said.
Box and Weaver spoke from a drive-thru clinic at 4970 W. 16th St. near Indianapolis Motor Speedway where the Indiana Department of Health is providing Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, flu shots and COVID-19 tests through the end of October.
In order to receive a Pfizer booster shot, Weaver said people will only need to attest that they are eligible for a third dose.
The Centers for Disease Control announced last week that people ages 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities and individuals ages 50-64 who have underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk of severe COVID-19 should receive a booster shot.
People ages 18-49 who have underlying health conditions may also receive a booster dose, according to the CDC, while people ages 18-64 who are at high risk for COVID-19 exposure due to their jobs can also get a third shot.
"We are not asking people at our sites to prove their eligibility," Weaver said. "We're just asking them to attest that they are eligible, and, again, 18 years, have received the Pfizer vaccine series primarily and are at least six months out."
Hoosiers can schedule a COVID-19 vaccine by calling 211 or visiting ourshot.in.gov. Indiana is currently administering about 10,000 vaccine doses a day, but Weaver said it isn't enough.
"If we continue at that pace, it could be well over another year before we achieve sufficient levels of immunizations to provide robust protection for the population at large," Weaver said. "None of us want that."
Watch the news conference with Box and Weaver below: