Fact Check: New England Journal of Medicine Did NOT Backtrack And Does NOT Admit COVID Vax May Not Be Safe For Pregnant Women

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: New England Journal of Medicine Did NOT Backtrack And Does NOT Admit COVID Vax May Not Be Safe For Pregnant Women No Change

Did the New England Journal of Medicine backtrack and admit the COVID-19 vaccine may not be safe for pregnant women? No, that's not true: An update posted by the Journal did not change the number of pregnancies a study found resulted in a spontaneous abortion after receiving the COVID vaccine; the number remained the same from the study published in July 2021. The correction did not say that the vaccine may not be safe for pregnant women and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Lead Stories advance papers about two new studies "found no increased risk of miscarriage among pregnant women who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine just before or during pregnancy."

The claims about the New England Journal of Medicine appeared in a September 20, 2021, Gateway Pundit article titled "What? New England Journal of Medicine Backtracks - Now Admits COVID Vax May Not Be Safe for Pregnant Women" (archived here), which opened:

The esteemed New England Journal of Medicine posted a correction last week and now admits the COVID vaccine may not be safe for pregnant women. The study was updated after it found that 104 of 827 pregnant participants experienced a spontaneous abortion after receiving the COVID vaccine. That is roughly 1 of 8 pregnant women...

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What? New England Journal of Medicine Backtracks - Now Admits COVID Vax May Not Be Safe for Pregnant Women

The esteemed New England Journal of Medicine posted a correction last week and now admits the COVID vaccine may not be safe for pregnant women. The study was updated after it found that 104 of 827 pregnant participants experienced a spontaneous abortion after receiving the COVID vaccine. That is roughly 1 of 8 pregnant women...

The medical journal's update, posted on the article titled, "mRNA Covid-19 Vaccines in Pregnant Women," neither admits the COVID vaccine is not safe for pregnant women nor changed the number of spontaneous abortions researchers found were experienced by pregnant women who received the vaccine.
The Gateway Pundit article made these two false claims:
  1. 'The esteemed New England Journal of Medicine posted a correction last week and now admits the COVID vaccine may not be safe for pregnant women.'
  2. 'The study was updated after it found that 104 of 827 pregnant participants experienced a spontaneous abortion after receiving the COVID vaccine. That is roughly 1 of 8 pregnant women losing their baby after getting the vaccine.'

Claim 1: Journal "admits" vaccine may not be safe for pregnant women

False: Nowhere in the update does the New England Journal of Medicine say the vaccine is unsafe for pregnant women.

Claim 2: Journal updated study after finding elevated numbers of spontaneous abortion in vaccinated women

False: The pertinent section of the New England Journal of Medicine's update reads: "In the fifth paragraph of this editorial (page 2342), the first sentence should have read, "Among 827 registry participants who reported a completed pregnancy, 104 experienced spontaneous abortions and 1 had a stillbirth," rather than "... a completed pregnancy, the pregnancy resulted in a spontaneous abortion in 104 (12.6%) and in stillbirth in 1 (0.1%); these percentages are well within the range expected as an outcome for this age group of persons whose other underlying medical conditions are unknown."

The numbers did not change in the update. The original article, published on April 21, 2021, reported the "pregnancy loss among participants with a completed pregnancy" in the V-safe Pregnancy Registry was 104 spontaneous abortions at less than 20 weeks out of 827 completed pregnancies, which would be a 12.6% miscarriage rate.
The update reflects new data that was previously unavailable because more pregnancies that were still incomplete at the time of the study have now ended and there is more information available. The number of spontaneous abortions did not increase; it remained 104 out of 827.
The update in full reads:
At the time of publication of preliminary findings in the Original Article related to this editorial, the number of spontaneous abortions was 104 and there was 1 stillbirth. However, no proportion could be determined for the risk of spontaneous abortion among participants vaccinated before 20 weeks of gestation because follow-up information was not yet available for the majority of those persons. The article has now been updated. In the fifth paragraph of this editorial (page 2342), the first sentence should have read, 'Among 827 registry participants who reported a completed pregnancy, 104 experienced spontaneous abortions and 1 had a stillbirth,' rather than, '...a completed pregnancy, the pregnancy resulted in a spontaneous abortion in 104 (12.6%) and in stillbirth in 1 (0.1%); these percentages are well within the range expected as an outcome for this age group of persons whose other underlying medical conditions are unknown.'
Martha Sharan of the CDC Public Affairs - Vaccine Task Force, COVID Response team told Lead Stories via email on September 12, 2021, that two new studies appear to have found no increased risks for pregnant women who received a vaccine. She wrote:
Growing evidence continues to demonstrate that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh known or potential risks. Two additional studies, one published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and the other in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), found no increased risk of miscarriage among pregnant women who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine just before or during pregnancy.
Here is a link to the paper in JAMA and here is a link to the NEJM paper.

Sharan continued:

Concerningly, as of September 11, 2021, only about 30% of pregnant persons were fully vaccinated before or during their pregnancy. With the dominance of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, the growing number of pregnant people who have been hospitalized for complications from COVID-19, and increased reports of maternal deaths from the virus in recent weeks, it is now more urgent than ever that pregnant people be vaccinated.
Sharan wrote that the CDC's recommendation that pregnant people get the vaccine is unchanged:
COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant. If you are pregnant, you might want to have a conversation with your healthcare provider about COVID-19 vaccination. While such a conversation might be helpful, it is not required before vaccination. You can receive a COVID-19 vaccine without any additional documentation from your healthcare provider.
The original version of the New England Journal of Medicine article was also mischaracterized. Lead Stories previously debunked a false claim that falsely asserted the New England Journal of Medicine found women who received the COVID-19 vaccine -- within 30 days of becoming pregnant and up to 20 weeks pregnant -- had a miscarriage rate of 82%.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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