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(NEW YORK) -- The granddaughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Julia Arnaz, is using her family's famous name to raise awareness about breast cancer in young adults. The 51-year-old lost her only daughter, 31-year-old Desiree Anzalone, to the disease last fall.

Speaking to Page Six, Arnaz explained that her daughter was 25 when she first felt a lump in her breast. She sought the opinion of a doctor, who Arnaz said brushed off her concerns.

Arnaz explained that her daughter obtained a second opinion when her lump began to hurt months later and was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.

"Those four or five months, it's a huge difference," she told the outlet.

Anzalone lost her battle with breast cancer last September, and a foundation is being set up in her memory to raise awareness that breast cancer does affect young women.

"So many young women might say, 'Ah it's a cyst, no big deal,'" Arnaz told Page Six. "But [Desiree] really advocated for herself and I encourage other young women to do this."

The foundation also aims to help younger women obtain mammograms and ultrasounds by expanding coverage for those critical preventative measures.

"It's [Desiree] working through me," Arnaz said. "She is God's working angel and that's what keeps me going."

Arnaz also reflected on Desiree's relationship with her grandfather, Desi Arnaz Jr., telling the outlet, "She spent lots of time with my dad, she lived with him for about four or five months too."

"He helped me very much through my life and helped my daughter through college," she recalled.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


(Credit: ABC News) Rhys Devine with her mother, Ceri Devine, during a visit to the doctor for her spinal muscular atrophy.

(LOS ANGELES) -- Ceri and Rory Devine welcomed their first child, Rhys, into the world three months before COVID-19 shut down the country. It wasn't long before the new parents from Redondo Beach, California, began to see the hampering effects of the lockdown on their ability to address unsettling signs in their daughter's development.

"There was no comparisons for children because of the pandemic. So we never had the sort of side-by-side or interactions or anything like that, either, so that was really difficult," Rory Devine told Nightline.

Rhys was born on Dec. 4, 2019, after what her parents described as a perfectly normal pregnancy. But while she looked healthy on the surface, on the inside, she was already losing ground. It would take months for her parents to realize it.

"We got to about three, four months, and I noticed she wasn't moving as much as other babies," Ceri Devine said.

Rhys was missing milestones associated with the normal development of a baby; her parents said she wasn't performing simple movements, like trying to raise her head and moving her legs.

"You pick her up and she slips right through your fingers because she's got no muscle tone," Ceri Devine said. "It's like holding a 19-pound newborn."

Watch the full story on Nightline TUESDAY NIGHT (May 18) at 12:35 a.m. ET on ABC.

As COVID-19 forced doctors into telemedicine, the Devines were relegated to explaining Rhys' condition to her doctor virtually. Rory Devine said doctors consistently told them Rhys only had low muscle tone. She was placed on a physical therapy regimen, but her condition continued to worsen.

Ceri Devine said that by six months old, Rhys still wasn't able to move her legs. Watching other people's children growing up on Instagram, she said she'd get "frustrated" because their kids were already sitting up despite being months younger.

"The entire time this was going on, I was saying, 'Look, the doctor said it's fine. It's fine. I was a slow developer,'" Rory Devine said he'd told his wife. "And she was the one who was consistently saying there's something wrong."

The family was finally able to schedule an in-person appointment with a pediatrician on May 27, 2020. It was during this appointment that the doctor told them Rhys might have a neurodegenerative disease called spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA.

The condition is typically inherited when both parents carry the mutated version of a gene that helps the body maintain its motor neurons. The disease causes the loss of these specialized nerve cells and weakens movement in the muscles, and it worsens with age, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"Those nerve cells die over time," said Dr. Mary Schroth, chief medical officer of the nonprofit Cure SMA. "People with SMA lose the ability to walk, to sit up, even to swallow and to breathe."

SMA affects about 1 in 8,000 to 10,000 people worldwide. Rhys was diagnosed with the most common form of the disease -- type 1, also known as Werdnig-Hoffmann disease -- which affects about half of those diagnosed, according to the NIH.

"The first thing when you look it up on Google is most infants diagnosed with SMA type 1 do not live past 2 years of age," Ceri Devine said.

Now keenly aware of their daughter's deteriorating health, the Devine's quickly sought help from neurologist Dr. Perry Shieh at the University of California, Los Angeles. Shieh, an expert on SMA who's treated about 100 babies with the disease, confirmed Rhys' diagnosis.

Shieh said it's difficult diagnosing SMA because so many babies born with it "look essentially normal." But he said a lot of those babies "never obtain the ability to sit. So they miss that milestone."

"When we see babies or children missing their milestones, it gets us concerned," he said.

The confirmation of their daughter's condition devastated the new parents. Ceri Devine said that while out on walks, she'd see other kids living their lives normally, "running around, on their scooters," and it'd make her think about how Rhys will "probably never do that."

"We weren't sure if she was gonna be alive," Rory Devine added. "I had almost come to terms with the fact, I'm like, 'Well, this will destroy us.' Like, no couple can survive the loss of their first kid."

In recent years, however, new advances in SMA treatments have begun to help the thousands of children diagnosed with the disease. Rhys began receiving a gene therapy called Spinraza shortly after her diagnosis. The drug is injected directly into cerebrospinal fluid in the patient's lower back, according to Cure SMA, and is meant to fix the splicing errors in the mutated genes.

But the drug is expensive, costing a total of about $650,000 to $750,000 in the first year -- when the patient is given "loading doses" -- and then about $375,000 for each year afterward. It must be taken every four months for the duration of the patient's life.

With that long-term financial burden looming, the Devines began to look at a newer gene therapy option called Zolgensma. The one-time shot delivers a functional version of the mutated or missing gene that causes SMA, according to the Food and Drug Administration. It's meant for children under 2 years old, and the earlier a child receives it, the higher their chance of living a relatively normal life.

"It's a degenerative condition, so it's a progressive condition," Shieh said. "Another way to think about it is you're sliding downhill and there's really no way to go back up the hill. So what you want to do is provide some type of treatment that prevents this child from sliding further down the hill."

But Zolgensma isn't cheap, either. In fact, it has been called the most expensive drug in the world, with one dose costing over $2 million.

During their ordeal with Rhys, the Devines continued to work full time. Ceri Devine is a red carpet event planner while her husband works in recruiting. But while they were fortunate enough to have health insurance, the approval process for Zolgensma is complicated and time-consuming, Ceri Devine said.

"I spent just all day, every day on the phone with the insurance company," she said.

Novartis, which manufactures Zolgensma, said the price of the drug is comparable to other gene therapies and that on average, it'll only cost about half of what a family would spend on other SMA treatments over a decade. The company also said that families with insurance coverage are likely to pay far less than the label price.

"We currently have policies in place that cover about 97% of commercial patients, and Medicaid access continues to progress with [about] 86% of lives covered," the company said in a statement.

"I think anybody who has a child, anybody who cares for somebody who has SMA, it's definitely worth it," Shieh said. "It is life-changing. It's lifesaving."

Although she said it makes her feel "sick to think that there's a price tag on a child's life," Ceri Devine said she was willing to do anything necessary to ensure Rhys received the drug.

"I said to Rory, 'If this is what she has ... and we have to get this treatment, we'll do whatever it takes to get it.' I said I would sell my organs," Ceri Devine said. "I was prepared to move back home ... with my parents if we had to. It didn't really faze me because the cost of it didn't matter. Whatever it took, we were gonna get our daughter this medication."

Three months after Rhys was diagnosed with SMA, the Devines' persistence paid off. Rhys was given the injection of Zolgensma on Aug. 14, 2020. And just three days later, her parents began seeing signs that the drug was working, when she lifted her head without their help, Rory Devine said.

Rhys' strength continued to progress and she soon began to achieve the milestones for which the Devines had waited too long. By November 2020, Ceri Devine said Rhys had begun to sit unassisted on her own.

"She's made some wonderful gains," Shieh said. "She's lifting her arms up more than when I first met her, she's lifting her legs up more. She's breathing a bit better. So, I'm quite optimistic that she'll be able to continue to gain some motor skills and some other milestones."

While monitoring Rhys' progress after the Zolgensma shot, Ceri Devine joined a Facebook group of parents of kids with SMA -- many of whom did not know what SMA was until their child was diagnosed.

Only 36 states currently mandate SMA screening for infants, meaning that nationwide, more than a quarter of children are never screened for the disease. California enacted its screening mandate six months after Rhys was born.

"For SMA, newborn screening saves lives," Schroth said. "It's an important disease to diagnose early and treat early. ... It warms my heart so much to know that patients may not need my services someday. As a pediatric pulmonologist, I am good with that. Or, they [will] need different services from me. I'm just so happy not to grieve with the family's who's losing their child."

Rhys, who's now 18 months old, has become capable of rolling over on her own and, although she sits in a wheelchair to get around, she's been learning to stand with the help of specialized shoes, leg braces and a physical therapy machine. In February, she stood up by herself for a total of three seconds.

Although she continues to undergo breathing treatments and different physical therapy exercises, the Devines are hopeful Rhys will continue to improve.

"No mom wants to see their kid in a wheelchair forever," Ceri Devine said. "It's my hope that she'll be able to walk and take steps and have some independence. ... But, realistically, she will probably have a wheelchair as her primary mode of getting around."

They also hope that by sharing Rhys' story, more families with children with SMA will be able to access treatment early and experience the same success.

"We can't stop it from happening to anyone else, but [we can] just educate people on what SMA is," Ceri Devine said. "There are these treatments for it and the sooner you catch it, the better off these babies will be."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Ohio may have hit the jackpot with its $5 million "Vax-a-Million" lottery as the state reports a surge in COVID-19 vaccinations since the incentive was announced.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced the lottery on May 12 that will see five vaccinated adults win a $1 million prize. Starting May 26 for five weeks, a winner will be announced each Wednesday.

So far in Ohio, money apparently talks. Friday marked the highest vaccination day in three weeks, just two days after the lottery was announced, with 25,414 shots in arms, DeWine said in a press conference Monday.

It may not just be the chance of winning a cool mill, though: The overall increase in inoculations was likely bolstered by the May 10 approval of the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds.

However, promisingly, residents between the ages of 30 to 74 come out in hordes, and shots for the age range increased by 6% last week. That age group had seen declining vaccination numbers in the weeks prior, DeWine said.

"We're getting anecdotal reports back from health departments that we're seeing an increase [in vaccinations]. We had been seeing a downturn that continued, fewer and fewer people were getting vaccinated. It appears that we have bottomed out on that and there's some indication that we're certainly seeing an increase," DeWine said Monday.

"This is the way we get out of this pandemic, more and more Ohioians are getting vaccinated, our cases are going down," he added.

More than 4.9 million people, or 42.74% of the state population, had started the vaccine and more than 4.3 million, or 37.54% of the population, had completed the vaccine series as of Tuesday, according to the state's vaccine tracker.

Any Ohioan 18 and older who has gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the date of each drawing is eligible to enter the "Vax-a-Million" lottery. Ohioans must opt in online or by calling the state Health Department to enter the drawing starting on Tuesday.

The Ohio Department of Health said in a press release it would use "federally funded Coronavirus Relief Funds to fund" the public outreach campaign.

The state also has incentives for their young residents. Ohioans between 12 to 17 can enter to win one of five full-ride four-year scholarships including room and board, tuition and books, to any Ohio state college or university with proof of the vaccine.

A slew of states have offered their own incentives to entice locals to get the shot as the nation reports a slump in vaccinations since March. New Jersey has offered free beer, in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo began a promotion for free Mets and Yankee game tickets, and West Virginia offered $100 saving bonds.

So far, 37.3% of the U.S. population is fully inoculated and 47.5% has received at least one dose of the vaccine, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Vadzim Kushniarou/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- An "alarming" rise in colorectal cancer cases among young people has led the United States Preventive Services Task Force to establish new guidelines. Medical experts are now officially recommending that people of average risk start getting screened for colon cancer at age 45, rather than 50, which was the previous standard.

The announcement Tuesday morning finalizes prior draft guidance last fall, and aligns with the American Cancer Society's stance. It indicates a solidifying push for awareness, and underscores the urgency of better, more widespread screening amongst age groups that may not know they're at risk.

Insurance coverage is directly tied to the task force's new recommendations, in fact, experts noted that companies will now be required to cover such screenings.

Now, millions of younger Americans can get checked for the condition at no out-of-pocket cost.

"The prognosis is so much better if you catch it at an earlier stage, for what is such a frightening trend," Dr. Kimmie Ng, the director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told ABC News. "Having these new guidelines is so important -- they support and validate the alarming epidemiologic trends we've been seeing. I think this should be a call to action."

Colorectal cancer impacts the gastrointestinal system's final segment. It is the second leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths, and yet, it remains one of the most treatable, even curable cancers, when caught in its early stages.

But catching it early can be tough when you don't know you're supposed to start looking.

Until recently, screening was not generally recommended for the below-50 crowd. This led to potentially vulnerable, or even sick adults putting off testing thinking their symptoms did not rise to the level of firm diagnosis. Because of this lack of awareness, pernicious, possibly cancerous growths remained undetected for too long, experts say, and now, young patients are suffering from more advanced, harder-to-treat cancers.

"[Colon] Cancer is simply not on their radar," Ng said. "They're otherwise young and healthy. So we need to emphasize that yes, this can happen in young people."

"Way too young" were the words resounding across the globe in August 2020, when news broke that actor Chadwick Boseman, at just 43 years old, had died of colon cancer. The shock of his loss was compounded by a common misconception: that the disease impacts only older people.

His widow has since spoken out, urging men under 50 to get screened.

"This disease is beatable if you catch it in its early stages," she said in March. "You don't have any time to waste, even if you don't have any family history."

Accruing evidence shows that while the overall incidence of colorectal cancer in the 50-and-older crowd is on the downturn -- in large part because of increased screening, experts say -- rates are climbing at a "concerning" and steady pace, and amongst younger groups.

In the past decade, those under 50 have roughly doubled their share of overall U.S. colon and rectal cancer cases. By the year 2030, colorectal cancer is on track to nearly double in people under 50, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

One peer-reviewed study published by JAMA recently projected that colorectal cancer is estimated to become the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in people 20 to 49 by 2030.

And colorectal cancer rates are far higher amongst Black Americans: 20% more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer than white people, and 40% more likely to die from it.

An estimated 52,980 people will die of colorectal in 2021, USPSTF projects.

And yet, as much as a third of eligible individuals are not up to date with their screening, experts say, with an even lower rate among the uninsured and underinsured, those with low incomes, and racial and ethnic minorities.

Beginning to screen at this new, lower age can avert more early deaths, and help to reverse the current trend, experts say.

"We really get a twofer with colorectal cancer screening," Dr. Michael Barry, a USPSTF member and director of Informed Medical Decisions in the Health Decision Sciences Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, told ABC. It allows doctors to troubleshoot emergent issues that could become cancer and catch cancer sooner, when patients are more treatable.

Experts hope the push for better outreach and education will also mitigate these cancers' current racial disparities.

"To the extent that physicians and health systems need to redouble their efforts for colorectal cancer screening for everyone," Barry said. "Maybe we need to triple our efforts for making sure that our Black patients are screened."

But experts note that the new guidelines will need to be enforced with the help of awareness campaigns and individual incentives. Companies, for example, could give their employees paid "wellness days" to undergo colorectal screening or provide daycare or transportation vouchers.

"Right now, these guidelines are important, but they're words on paper," Ng said. "And if we're going to realize the full benefits of what screening can accomplish, they need to be implemented."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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(NEW YORK) -- The trailer for Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey's mental health documentary series The Me You Can't See is here.

On Monday, Apple TV+ dropped the first look at the upcoming docuseries, which premieres this Friday. The Me You Can't See was both co-created and executive produced by the Duke of Sussex and the talk show legend.

The trailer gives viewers a look at the high-profile guests who join Harry and Winfrey to discuss emotional well-being, including Lady Gaga, Glenn Close and Zak Williams, son of the late Robin Williams, among others.

"All over the world, people are in some kind of mental, psychological, emotional pain," Winfrey says at the beginning of the trailer.

Harry then asks her which words she has heard people use when describing someone with mental health struggles, saying he has often heard "crazy" in reference to them.

"Lost it. Can't keep it together," Winfrey replies. "With that stigma of being labeled 'the other,' the telling of the story, being able to say, 'This is what happened to me,' is crucial."

Both Harry and the iconic TV personality will be sharing their own stories, with Winfrey shown getting emotional at one point in the trailer.

"To make that decision to receive help is not a sign of weakness," Harry says. "In today's world, more than ever, it is a sign of strength."

Also featured on the series are chef Rashad Armstead and Olympic boxer Virginia "Ginny" Fuchs as well as NBA stars DeMar DeRozan and Langston Galloway. Everyday people also join in to have open and honest conversations.

Winfrey and Harry partnered with 14 mental health professionals and organizations around the world for the series.

At the end of the trailer, the royal touches upon the lasting impact COVID-19 pandemic will have on society, saying, "The results of this year will be felt for decades" by "everybody."

Back in March, Harry sat down with Winfrey to discuss why he and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, decided to step back from their roles as senior, working royals and move to the U.S. with their son, Archie.

In the tell-all, Meghan -- who is pregnant with the couple's second child, a baby girl, and who also appeared in the trailer for The Me You Can't See -- opened up about suicidal thoughts she had during her time in the royal family.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 [TALK] for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.

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(NEW YORK) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending schools keep to the current COVID-19 guidelines, including mask-wearing and distancing, for the remainder of the school year as most students aren't fully vaccinated.

The agency provided the update on May 15 to clear up any confusion by the public following its announcement Thursday that vaccinated Americans can go maskless both indoors and outdoors.

The CDC noted that coronavirus vaccines are only available for people over the age of 12, leaving millions of school-age children unprotected from the virus.

"Systems and policy adjustments may be required for schools to change mask requirements for students and staff while continuing to ensure the safety of unvaccinated populations," the agency said in its recommendation.

The CDC said it will update its guidance for schools in the coming weeks.

As of Sunday, more than 123 million Americans over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. That represents roughly 44% of the American population over 12, the CDC said.

Although the agency's guidance permits vaccinated Americans to go maskless, several states haven't lifted their mask mandates, and officials are urging Americans to get their shots as soon as they can.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Courtesy Booker T. Williams

(NEW YORK) -- A kidney donor and recipient met for the first time and say they are now the best of friends.

Lisa Sorlie, 53, from Shawno County, Wisconsin, met Booker T. Washington, 41, from California, for the first time at the Milwaukee Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers game on May 2 -- nearly two years after the transplant.

"I just wanted to thank her because it changed my life. And whoever would have donated -- even if it was a cadaver kidney, I would've liked to thank the family in some kind of way. Just show how it improved my life so much," Washington told ABC News' Good Morning America of his desire to meet his donor.

Washington was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2014, a month after his father died from kidney complications, and had been searching for a donor ever since. By 2018, he was already at stage five of kidney disease.

The average wait time for a transplant in the United States is three to five years, but can be even longer depending on the region and donor availability, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

And according to the Organ Procurement and Transportation Network, there are 107,000 people on the waiting list to date, and only 14,000 transplants have been performed in 2021 alone.

Enter Sorlie, who told Good Morning America that she always knew she wanted to be an organ donor.

"I didn't miss anything because of my health, and I want everybody to have that," she said. "I want them to be too exhausted from chasing what matters to them."

On May 9, 2019, Sorlie went to a University of Wisconsin transplant center to have the procedure done. Her kidney was sent by airplane -- flights with organs have priority -- and arrived the same day. Washington recieved her kidney just hours later.

Neither knew the other's identity, but found each other through a happy accident.

In a Facebook group for kidney donors was a thread where some of the members put the date and location where they donated. When Sorlie posted "May 9, 2019," at a "UW transplant center," Washington's best friend, Shonna Hersman, who also was a kidney donor in the group, reacted to the post with a shocked-face emoji.

Sorlie then went to Hersman's Facebook account, where she saw a post dated the same day she donated, which said that the kidney for Washington had arrived and the transplant process was beginning. The two connected, and Hersman put Sorlie and Washington in contact with each other.

From the details they each had, they were able to confirm that Washington received Sorlie's kidney. They became "fast friends" and planned to meet up in 2020, but had to put it on hold because of COVID-19.

"My husband and I were talking about going there," Sorlie said. "And then Booker just sent a message and said, 'What are you doing the first weekend of May?'"

Washington figured a sports game would be a great way to "break the ice" and would be extra special due to the game's proximity to their two-year anniversary.

"We can watch the game or we can talk instead of just being kind of quiet. It's easy to break the ice because you're both rooting for your team," he said.

Upon meeting, any worries they may have had disappeared.

"In my mind's eye, he was going to be this very soft spoken, gentle person. And it turned out my intuition was spot on," Sorlie said.

"It wasn't like, 'Hey, you're the guy who has my kidney.' It was more like, 'Hey, you're the friend I've been waiting to meet' and that kidney was a conduit," she continued. "It was awesome. We just talked through everything. I would have missed the game."

At the end of the third inning, Washington had a surprise for Sorlie. On the scoreboard at American Family Field was a message that read, "Happy transplant anniversary 143. With all my kidney, you're my hero, Lisa Sorlie."

Due to a limited character count, Washington used "143," a pager code used in the '90s, which means "I love you."

Washington and Sorlie plan to keep in contact with each other, and want to have a tradition of doing something around their anniversary.

"She's family now," said Washington.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) — New York's Hamilton County is rural, remote and Republican. It also has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.

In general, vaccine hesitancy is estimated to be higher in rural areas, according to an ABC News analysis of county-level data. Counties with high estimated hesitancy also tend to be younger, poorer and more likely to have been won by former President Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential election.

Hamilton defies several of those trends. The county is "very, very rural," according to Bill Farber, the county's board chairman, with a year-round population of fewer than 5,000 residents nestled among the mountains and lakes of New York's Adirondack Park. It's isolated, with infrastructure and technology challenges, including spotty broadband and cell service. There's no hospital nor pharmacy in the county. During a pandemic that's been heavily politicized, it leans Republican, with 68% of residents voting for Trump in the 2020 election.

And yet an impressive 65% of people in the county are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared with 36% of Americans nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We've watched nationally, this political fight over COVID," Farber said. "We defied the odds, didn't we?"

Hamilton managed to sidestep that fight when it came to vaccines in part, he said, because its campaign was driven by the community and involved so many of its members. Schools, as well as a fire house, became vaccination sites. Business owners provided the county with lists of their employees as soon as they were eligible to be vaccinated. Local volunteers and neighbors spread information about the vaccine and talked about how excited they were to have protection against the virus. Hearing from trusted friends and family influenced the attitude of the community, according to Farber.

"That type of localized community conversation is so powerful in educating people, particularly in this day and age when people are so suspicious of politics and government," he said.

In addition to decoupling politics from public health, Hamilton benefited from having a plan in place when COVID-19 hit. Many small, rural communities don't have public health departments, but Hamilton does, and had a pandemic plan in place for more than a decade, which involved partnering with schools, the fire department, ambulance squad, law enforcement and community leaders.

When Adele Burnett, director of tourism in Inlet, one of the small towns in Hamilton, heard that the health department needed help registering people for vaccines, she jumped to volunteer. She and other members of the local COVID-19 task force compiled lists of people they knew were eligible to get vaccinated and called to see if they could register them for vaccines.

"We'd actually pick up the phone and start making calls," she said. "They didn't have to sit there on the computer refreshing the page.”

In addition to helping residents overcome technology barriers, the county tried to accommodate people's work schedules by offering vaccine clinics in the evening and on Saturdays. When new cohorts of people became eligible, like restaurant workers, the county tried to tailor clinic hours to target that group, Farber said.

Hamilton's older population and high number of front-line workers, like teachers, first responders and restaurant workers, also meant residents were eligible for vaccinations early in the state's rollout.

Now, like many places in the country, vaccinations in Hamilton are slowing and the county is looking for new ways to engage the unvaccinated. In addition to partnering with schools to get shots to newly eligible teenagers, the county plans to offer them in grocery store and gas station parking lots, as well as at farmers markets.

The county is also looking ahead to summer when Hamilton's population swells as second home owners and tourists flock to the area for boating, fishing and hiking. They're partnering with employers, Farber said, to offer vaccines to seasonal employees at kids summer camps.

Despite those efforts, Farber and Burnett acknowledged that getting to 100% vaccination was highly unlikely, even in Hamilton, and that pockets of people would probably remain unvaccinated. Still, Farber thinks this week's CDC announcement about mask wearing for fully vaccinated people could encourage some of the holdouts.

Rewarding people for getting vaccinated instead of forcing them to get a shot they're resistant to is in line with the apolitical ethos that's driven Hamilton's successful vaccine rollout thus far.

"Rather than getting caught up in it being a Republican or a Democrat issue, it really was seen as a community issue," Farber said. "I think that was our saving grace."

ABC News' Mark Nichols contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- No, your (itchy, red) eyes are not deceiving you -- allergy season is getting worse, and climate change is to blame.

Pollen counts are already higher than they've ever been, and not only will they increase, but the season will get longer as well, experts say.

Dr. Shahnaz Fatteh, an allergist and medical director of Asthma Allergy Care Center of Florida, has been seeing increases of both adult and pediatric patients in recent years, describing the effects of pollen as a "significant burden on health."

"I have been watching the pollen increase over the past decade," she said. "We see it in patient care."

About 40% of children and 30% of adults in the U.S. suffer from seasonal allergies, Fatteh said, describing patients who in the past experienced mild symptoms and are now complaining of more intense symptoms that they are suffering from longer.

The symptoms include sniffling, congestion and post nasal drip, which can then lead to cough, any type of viral exposure, sinus infections and ear infections, Fatteh said.

"It does affect people more than just sneezing and itching," she said, noting the economic burden as well as people take sick days to care for themselves or their children.

Researchers recently found that pollen seasons are starting about 20 days earlier than they used to, William Anderegg, assistant professor of ecology at the University of Utah's School of Biological Science, told ABC News.

In addition, there is 20% more pollen in the air right now than there was in the 1990s, Anderegg said. By 2040, pollen counts are expected to double from what they were in 2000, Fatteh added.

There is also evidence to suggest that the pollen itself is more allergenic, said Amir Sapkota, a professor at the University of Maryland's School of Public Health who specializes in how climate change affects human health.

"This trend will continue into the foreseeable future," Sapkota told ABC News. "This is only going to get worse. If you happen to be somebody suffering from allergies, this is not a good thing."

Human-caused climate change is responsible for more than 50% of the long-term trend of pollen season getting longer and pollen counts getting higher, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February, co-authored by Anderegg, found.

"We all see it in our daily life," Sapkota said. "When the winter temperatures are warmer, the tulips start to bloom early. The trees start to bloom early. We have noticed that."

The study found that of the three seasonal pollen irritants -- trees, grasses and weeds -- trees saw the most increase in pollen.

This explains the recent uptick in symptoms, as tree pollen is a major source of springtime allergies, Fatteh said.

Fatteh also warned that poison ivy growth is increasing due to climate change, which could pose a problem for people seeking outdoor leisure as a respite from a winter spent in pandemic mode.

To alleviate allergy symptoms, Fatteh suggested taking preventative measures such as keeping windows closed, changing AC filters and using air purifiers. She also recommended wearing a hat and sunglasses when going outside to keep pollen off of hair and eyelashes.

Fatteh also emphasized that it's important for people to be aware of the steps they can take to reduce waste and improve the environment.

Sapkota echoed that sentiment, stating that simple actions, such as choosing a battery-fueled car or switching from beef to chicken, can make an impact when done on a collective level.

"I think we all have a role to play," he said. "Every bit makes a difference."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Dr. Nadia Chaudhri

(MONTREAL, Canada) -- Dr. Nadia Chaudhri has been battling Stage 3 ovarian cancer for the past year, undergoing a hysterectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy.

When Chaudhri, a 43-year-old neuroscientist and professor from Montreal, Canada, was hospitalized again this week, she learned that the cancer had returned.

"Once ovarian cancer returns, it’s considered a terminal diagnosis," Chaudhri told "Good Morning America." "There is no treatment. You’re just buying time."

As Chaudhri and her husband received the devastating news, she said their thoughts immediately turned to their 6-year-old son, whose name Chaudhri asked not be used.

"My husband and I made the decision that we needed to tell our son what is going on because all the treatments are failing me," she said. "He already knew that I had cancer. He knew that I was still taking chemotherapy medication and trying to get better, but I don’t think he had a sense of how bad it is."

Early on Tuesday morning, the day she had planned for the conversation with her son, Chaudhri said she woke up crying and feeling "completely devastated."

In need of an "outlet" for her grief, Chaudhri turned to Twitter, where she has been keeping in touch with friends, colleagues and students, and posted about the conversation she was preparing to have.

"Today is the day I tell my son that I’m dying from cancer. It’s reached a point where he has to hear it from me," she wrote. "Let all my tears flow now so that I can be brave this afternoon. Let me howl with grief now so that I can comfort him."

Chaudhri said she did not look at Twitter for many hours later and was later shocked by the overwhelming response to her tweet and the conversation it had started.

"I was really shocked that the tweet went viral," said Chaudhri. "It really seemed to strike a nerve."

"A lot of people have written to me unsolicited and told me how important it was that their parents had that conversation and they assured me how they turned out fine, or they told me about situations where they didn’t have the conversation and how dreadful that was," she said. "I’ve had a lot of validation."

Among the thousands of responses to Chaudhri's tweet, some people wrote to share their own experiences, while others offered advice.

"My mother was this honest with me about her cancer when I was your son's age. Her honesty and courage have had a lasting effect on me and those around her," one commenter wrote.

"My dad lost his mom from cancer when he was a kid. No one told him anything until she was dead. It's a beautiful thing that you are giving your son the gift of truth. I've been taught that love is truth. Your son will be ok. My dad was and raised us this way," wrote another.

"Make videos for his future special days (graduations, weddings, first job, first break up) so he’ll be able to continue to feel your love, wisdom, sympathy and pride," said a third.

Chaudhri said she spoke with a close friend who is also a psychologist to prepare ahead of time for her talk with her son. When the time came on Tuesday afternoon, the conversation was short but meaningful, according to Chaudhri.

"One of the things my son said was, ‘I wish I didn’t know. I wish you hadn’t told me,'" she recalled. "We said, 'We have to tell you because you’re part of the family and we didn’t want you to have a bad surprise. We wanted to give you the chance to ask your questions and talk about it and feel things with us, as a family.'"

"I’m so glad we did it because he needed to hear it and he understood right away what was said," she added. "It just worked out well even though it was the hardest conversation I’ve ever had."

Chaudhri said that throughout her cancer battle, and especially at this point, she has been trying to follow advice she received early on.

"I realized that my response is going to affect how everybody responds around me, so something I’m trying to do is help the people around me sort of reach a point where we get through this together," she said. "I know it’s going to be a shock and it’s going to be sad but I’m trying to help get everybody to a place where it can be more of a celebration of my life and less of a shock of my death, and my son is part of that."

Chaudhri, who is now home from the hospital, said she knows the conversation she and her husband had with their son is just the first of many, describing it as one that just "opened the door to the conversation that we might need to continue to have, an ongoing one."

While at home with her family, Chaudhri is also using her time to draw attention to a cause near to her heart, raising money to allow young scientists to be able to continue the research she was doing on drug addiction.

Chaudhri, who moved from Pakistan to the U.S. at age 17 to attend college, had to close her research lab in September due to her diagnosis.

She said she decided to turn her frustration with not being able to work into an opportunity to raise money for underrepresented scholars in her field. Her efforts have so far raised more than $180,000.

"Through this process I’ve had people telling me things that are surprising, like [graduate students] describing interactions with me that have been meaningful to them," said Chaudhri. "I didn’t realize I was having those impacts and it turns out I did."

"It's important to be good and be kind and be honest and have integrity," she said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Bill Oxford/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- Although 150 million people have received a COVID-19 vaccine, 34% of Americans are still hesitant about getting the shots and say they are not sure yet, or don’t want the vaccine, according to a recent Kaiser poll.

Despite overwhelming data supporting currently authorized vaccines -- all of which were found safe and highly effective in large clinical trials and in real life since FDA authorization -- many Americans have delayed vaccination, citing a range of reasons.

Yet, some who have been hesitant to get the vaccine are changing their minds, they told ABC News.

Haifa Palazzo, a 68-year-old Ohio grandmother, was skeptical about the vaccine, but while she said she elected to "wait and see, " she said she suffered severe COVID-19, and was hospitalized at the Cleveland Clinic for two months.

She said that at one point, doctors told her family to say their final goodbyes. Now recovered and fully vaccinated, Palazzo encourages anyone who will listen to get their shots.

“Don’t wait,” Palazzo said. She said her prior hesitation was due to a belief that “nothing can happen to me, right?”

Rapid COVID-19 vaccine development was possible because of decades of prior scientific studies demonstrating safety, as well as an unprecedented multibillion-dollar commitment by the federal government to accelerate research.

“If I could spare one person what I went through, then it was all worth it,” Palazzo said. “And then if they do get the shot, maybe they'll tell a friend or a family member and maybe it can extend from there. I'm hoping and hoping.”

A different worry was on the mind of Dr. Julius Johnson -- a nurse practitioner and president of the Greater NYC Black Nurses Association.

"As a Black person, I'm hesitant about health care,” Johnson said, “because of the way, historically we have been treated.” The history of the United States is filled with examples of Black and minority Americans subjected to unethical medical treatment.

Though initially skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines, Johnson said he felt comforted once he understood more about the way vaccines were tested -- in over 100,000 people among the three vaccines -- and saw people in his community getting vaccinated.

The vaccines were also tested on a diverse group, comprising tens of thousands of volunteers of all different races, ethnicities and life experiences.

Ultimately, Johnson said that he decided it was more important to set an example for his family, his community and his fellow health care workers. Now, he said he's educating others who are hesitant to get the vaccine and told ABC News that he wants those in his community to understand "the truth about vaccines ... their effectiveness ... how they were created" and "the positivity that surrounds" them. He said he wants people to make an "informed decision.”

Johnson said he is also helping build trust by running a local vaccination site.

“They look at us and say it’s good to see somebody that looks like us … that helps increase the trust,” Johnson said. “It's our people that are vaccinating us, we can trust them.”

For others, reluctance wasn’t fueled by history, but rather by lingering questions about the vaccines themselves.

That was the case for a Mississippi nurse practitioner named Smith, who found out she was pregnant two months before COVID-19 vaccines were available. She asked ABC News not to disclose her full name for privacy reasons.

“I was hesitant at first,” she said. “There were not studies specifically with pregnant mothers. There just wasn’t enough research behind that part of it.”

But as new data emerged showing vaccines were safe for pregnant moms and their babies, Smith said she decided it was more of a risk to remain unvaccinated, and vulnerable to COVID-19. Meanwhile, she said was encouraged by evidence that vaccinated pregnant moms pass some of their antibodies to their baby while pregnant and through breast milk.

“If there was a chance that I could give her my antibody of the vaccine then I would prefer to do that,” she said. "I feel more protected. I've done what I need to do to protect myself and my baby.”

Alex Carlson, a 26-year-old physical therapist, living with lupus, said she was concerned about how the vaccine would affect her immune system. Similar to pregnant women, many people with immune-compromised conditions were excluded from initial vaccine studies.

Carlson said she found reassurance by reviewing research herself, not relying on the media alone, and by speaking with co-workers as well as her rheumatologist who was “very supportive, even despite the lack of research for immunocompromised people," she said.

"And so I got it," Carlson said about the COVID vaccine.

Although the extent of protection for immune-compromised people isn't well understood, medical experts agree that some protection from COVID-19 through vaccination is better than none. Carlson told ABC News she had to sign a waiver acknowledging lack of research in immunocompromised people when she was vaccinated.

“But I really had no problem signing that because like I said, I had done enough research … I felt good about it one way or the other," she said.

Others delayed vaccination because they felt unlikely to get very sick from COVID-19. Jacob Clifton, who works as a crop consultant in Arkansas, said he delayed signing up for a shot when he became eligible because he saw himself in a low-risk job and as young, and healthy -- but healthy people can still easily pass the virus on to others, experts say.

“I just ... wanted the people higher up on the list to get it before I did," Clifton said.

Meanwhile, his wife Hailey said she was worried because she heard unfounded rumors that the vaccine might lead to infertility.

Ultimately, they both got vaccinated. Hailey Clifton, an emergency room nurse, said she relied on the advice of her colleagues at the hospital, as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists .

Her place of work, St. Bernard’s Medical Center also hosted a video conference with staff and its OBGYN department to provide vaccine education.

Now, the Cliftons told ABC, they no longer have to worry when they are around their almost 2-year-old son and family.

Ohio grandmother Haifa Palazzo said it makes sense that some people have questions about COVID-19 vaccines. But relying on accurate information and trusted sources can help people make informed decisions and help end the pandemic, "so we can get closer to our normal lives and activities," she said.

“We need to be there just like the soldiers were there for war,” Palazzo said. “Nurses were there on the front line, doctors, we need to do our part, which is to get vaccinated.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Rattankun Thongbun/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- At least four states and a string of local leaders are holding off on changing their mask mandates following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance that allows fully vaccinated Americans to go without masks indoors or outdoors.

At least seven Democrat-led states -- Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington state -- said they would change their rules to follow the agency's new guidance, hours after it was announced.

However, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, and Massachusetts announced that for now, they plan to keep their mask mandates in place. Over a dozen other states and jurisdictions have yet to announce their plans.

Local leaders in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., which are all led by Democrats, said Thursday they'd take the new CDC guidance under advisement before adopting.

Whether states that choose to follow CDC guidelines will keep their mask mandates in place for unvaccinated individuals, remains unclear.

"If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing Thursday.

The CDC said locals must continue to abide by existing state and local regulations and business rules. The new guidance comes on the heels of the CDC’s approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds on Wednesday.

Currently, 24 state governments, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, require people to wear face coverings in public settings.

The pandemic saw local leaders impose restrictions upon their constituents, with many of the most stringent lockdowns ordered by Democratic leaders.

On Friday, Minnesota ended their mask mandate as the state’s Executive Council unanimously approved Gov. Tim Walz’s order rescinding the face requirements.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper lifted all mandatory capacity, gathering limits and social distancing requirements while easing most mask requirements on Friday as well. North Carolina will follow the new CDC guidance and masks will be required in child care, schools and camps as most children are not vaccinated or not eligible to be vaccinated yet.

At a city level, mayors in Washington, D.C., and New York City are reviewing the guidance before announcing any official changes. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday the city will review the new rules “as masks will still be important for schools, public transportation, doctors' offices and more."

Similarly, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said "L.A. County and the state will review the recommendations in order to make sensible adjustments." Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week the state would drop outdoor mask mandates on June 15, when the state intends to fully reopen.

In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee didn’t wear a mask for his news conference Thursday saying the state was immediately adopting the new federal guidance on mask wearing.

“This is a really good reason to get vaccinated. That shot is a ticket to freedom from masks," Inslee said.

States that haven’t announced a new guidance yet include California, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, West Virginia, D.C. and Puerto Rico as of Friday morning.

The new recommendation, which carves out exceptions for buses, planes, trains, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, will have significant implications for schools and businesses as the country begins to reopen.

Even on Capitol Hill, lawmakers must abide by the mask guidance until all House staffers are vaccinated, according to a memo by the office of the attending physician obtained by ABC News.

Some critics wonder if the decision comes too hastily as variants still threaten the spread of COVID-19 and several regions of the country still grapple with vaccine hesitancy.

So far, 35.8% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, or more than 118 million people. That number is projected to surge now that children are eligible for the vaccine.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- The new government guidance that fully vaccinated Americans can return to life without masks marked a turning point for the nation's reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, but it also sparked many questions, including from parents.

Under the new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, including in crowds.

Left behind from the new recommendation are kids ages under the age of 11 who do not yet qualify for a vaccine.

In the U.S., everyone ages 12 years and older is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Here is what parents may want to know about face masks and kids to help them make decisions.

1. Do kids who are not vaccinated still need to wear face masks?

Yes, according to Dr. Richard Besser, a pediatrician and president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"I'm encouraging all my patients who are 12 and older to get vaccinated, but for younger kids, the current recommendations are, if you're out with your kids in indoor places, they should be wearing masks," Besser said Friday on Good Morning America.

The new recommendation from the CDC also carves out exceptions for buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, situations in which all people, vaccinated or not, still need to wear face masks. And since the CDC does not make laws, Americans still need to abide by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

2. Do vaccinated parents need to wear face masks if their children are not yet vaccinated?

"If you are fully vaccinated, you should feel very comfortable being around your children who aren't vaccinated without you having to wear a mask," said Besser. "It gets a little trickier when going out in public with your children who aren't vaccinated."

He reiterated that children who are not vaccinated should wear face masks when in public, indoor places.

3. Can vaccinated grandparents and family friends interact with unvaccinated children?

The same mask guidance applies for vaccinated persons of all ages. Unvaccinated children would still need to wear masks in most settings.

The CDC considers it safe for unvaccinated people to be outside in a small gathering with fully vaccinated family or friends without a mask, and with a mask if there are other unvaccinated persons around.

4. Can unvaccinated kids contract COVID-19 from unvaccinated people without face masks?

Yes, according to Besser.

"This is one of the reasons we want to make sure that everyone in every community has access to vaccine and it's as easy as possible," he said. "If you are someone who is deciding not to get vaccinated, you do need to wear a mask. It's the right thing to do for those around you who can't get vaccinated or who may be at higher risk."

Under the CDC guidance, people who are not fully vaccinated need to continue to wear face masks and maintain social distancing.

The CDC defines fully vaccinated as two weeks after the final shot.

5. Does this guidance change requirements for face masks in schools?

Not exactly.

Under the CDC guidance, children who are not yet fully vaccinated would still need to wear face masks while indoors at school.

And while the CDC recommendations are at the federal level, states will still have the choice to implement their own guidelines.

That means requirements for face masks in schools will still be decided on a state and local level.

6. What are good, safe activities for unvaccinated kids?

Besser recommends keeping kids in outdoor activities as much as possible until they can get vaccinated.

"I'm hoping the CDC looks a little more at their guidelines around what kids can do outside," he said. "I'd like to see more encouragement for kids getting outdoors."

He added, "This has been a really hard year on everyone, but in particular on children, and we need to let kids be kids in ways that are safe."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(ATLANTA) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will no longer recommend masks for fully-vaccinated Americans indoors or outdoors, including in crowds, according to sweeping new guidance announced Thursday.

The new recommendation, which carves out exceptions for buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, will have significant implications for schools and businesses as the country begins to reopen.

It’s an about-face from guidance issued just 16 days earlier in which the CDC suggested masks should still be used indoors or in crowds even if people are fully immunized, which the CDC defines as two weeks after the final shot.

In making the decision, the CDC pointed to additional data from the last few weeks that show the vaccines work in the real world, stand up to the variants and make it unlikely vaccinated people can transmit the virus.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky detailed the announcement at a White House briefing.

"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing," she said. "If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

"We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy," she said.

The announcement comes after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky faced criticism for being too slow to provide a path back to normalcy for fully vaccinated people, over 117 million of whom are in the U.S. Walensky has defended the CDC's approach as scientifically-based to ensure protection not just for individuals but also the entire U.S. population.

In recent days, though, Walensky has pledged an update on both the CDC’s guidance for vaccinated Americans and the science that supports the changes. President Joe Biden also hinted that guidance was coming.

While states will still have the choice to implement their own guidelines -- nearly half of all states still have some sort of state-wide mask mandate in place -- the new guidance will have immediate implications for offices, schools and public-facing businesses.

At the same time, mask enforcement for non-vaccinated people will be challenging and is likely to re-up the discussion on vaccine passports, which some states have banned.

The CDC began to update its guidance for fully-vaccinated adults last month, first giving the go-ahead for vaccinated people to hangout with other vaccinated people indoors without masks, and with unvaccinated people who were low-risk -- allowing grandparents to see their grandchildren indoors without masks. Earlier this month, the CDC also announced that vaccinated people could ditch their masks outdoors so long as they’re not in crowds.

But a growing public health consensus that the vaccines are performing well against the variants commonly found in the U.S. and in curbing transmission suggested that the CDC could go further.

Walensky, for her part, pledged updated guidance "very soon" in an interview on CNN Wednesday night, but defended the CDC’s approach as cautious and scientific in order to protect communities both with low vaccination and high vaccination rates.

Walensky said the CDC has to make sure the vaccines are working to stop asymptomatic transmission, which is largely believed to be the case, and watch for the vaccines’ efficacy against emerging variants, particularly the variants initially discovered in the U.K., South Africa, Brazil and recently, India.

"I have been completely forthcoming with respect to the science, with respect to our guidance, with respect to our numbers, with respect to our cases. And I really look forward to updating the guidance and providing the science that allows us to do so very soon," Walensky said on CNN.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- A new study on pregnant people and COVID-19 vaccines is adding to the growing body of evidence showing the vaccine is safe during pregnancy.

Researchers at Northwestern University studying people who had been fully vaccinated during pregnancy, found the vaccine had no impact on pregnancy and no impact on fertility, menstruation and puberty.

The study, published May 11 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, is believed to be the first to examine the impact of the COVID-19 vaccines on the placenta, according to the university.

"At this point, as we're collecting data, the news is reassuring that this vaccine is safe, both based on its biology and what we’re actually seeing in the real world," said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent and a board-certified OBGYN.

Here is what pregnant and breastfeeding people may want to know about the COVID-19 vaccines to help them make informed decisions.

1. When can pregnant people get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Everyone 12 years of age and older, including pregnant people, is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pregnant people can get the COVID-19 vaccine at any point in their pregnancy, and the vaccine does not need to be spaced from other vaccines, like the flu shot or Tdap booster.

2. What is the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology, which does not enter the nucleus of the cells and doesn’t alter the human DNA. Instead, it sends a genetic instruction manual that prompts cells to create proteins that look like the virus a way for the body to learn and develop defenses against future infection.

They are the first mRNA vaccines, which are theoretically safe during pregnancy, because they do not contain a live virus.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses an inactivated adenovirus vector, Ad26, that cannot replicate. The Ad26 vector carries a piece of DNA with instructions to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that triggers an immune response.

This same type of vaccine has been authorized for Ebola, and has been studied extensively for other illnesses -- and for how it affects women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

The CDC has concluded that pregnant people can receive the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine after reviewing more than 200 pages of data provided by the company and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Vaccine experts interviewed by ABC News said although pregnant women are advised against getting live-attenuated virus vaccines, such as the one for measles, mumps and rubella, because they can pose a theoretical risk of infection to the fetus, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine doesn't contain live virus and should be safe.

3. Are there studies on pregnant women and the COVID-19 vaccine?

In addition to the most recent Northwestern University study, a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in March found the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective in pregnant and lactating people and those people are able to pass protective antibodies to their newborns.

Researchers studied a group of 131 reproductive-age women who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, including 84 pregnant, 31 lactating and 16 non-pregnant women and found antibody levels were similar in all three groups. No significant difference in vaccine side effects were found between pregnant and non-pregnant study participants.

The study had some limitations. It was small and participants were primarily white health care workers from a single city. On the other hand, it's the largest study of a group that was left out of initial vaccine trials.

4. What are health groups saying about the COVID-19 vaccine?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated its guidance to say pregnant people at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and those at risk of severe disease should be vaccinated.

"While pregnancy puts women at higher risk of severe COVID-19, very little data are available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy," WHO said in a statement. "Nevertheless, based on what we know about this kind of vaccine, we don’t have any specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women. For this reason, those pregnant women at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. health workers) or who have comorbidities which add to their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated in consultation with their health care provider."

The CDC says people who are pregnant and breastfeeding "may choose to be vaccinated" and should talk with their health care provider, noting that breastfeeding is an important consideration but "is rarely a safety concern with vaccines."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a professional membership organization for OB-GYNs, says both pregnant and breastfeeding people should have access to the vaccine when they are eligible for it, according the criteria of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

Likewise, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) recommends pregnant people have access to vaccines and says pregnant people should "engage in shared decision-making" about the vaccine with their doctors.

"In general, SMFM strongly recommends that pregnant women have access to COVID-19 vaccines in all phases of future vaccine campaigns, and that she and her health care professional engage in shared decision-making regarding her receipt of the vaccine. ... mRNA vaccines, which are likely to be the first vaccines available, do not contain a live virus but rather induce humoral and cellular immune response through the use of viral mRNA," the society said in its statement. "Health care professionals should also counsel their patients that the theoretical risk of fetal harm from mRNA vaccines is very low."

5. What will clinical trials be like for pregnant people?

Pfizer's phase 2/3 trial will enroll approximately 4,000 women within weeks 24-34 of their pregnancy, the company announced in a press release.

Half will get the vaccine, and half will get a placebo.

The study will include healthy, pregnant woman age 18 and older in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mozambique, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Spain.

Participants in the vaccine group will receive two doses at 21 days apart -- and each woman will be followed for at least 7-10 months in order to continuously assess for safety in both participants and their infants.

Infants will also be assessed, up until 6 months of age, for transfer of protective antibodies from their vaccinated mother.

Women enrolled in the trial will be made aware of their vaccine status shortly after giving birth to allow those women who originally received placebo to be vaccinated while staying in the study.

6. Why weren't pregnant people included in early clinical trials?

Not recruiting parents-to-be in clinical trials and medical research is nothing new, according to Dr. Ruth Faden, the founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and a bioethicist who studies the ethics of pregnancy and vaccines.

"For a very long time, pregnant women were not included in biomedical research evaluation efforts or clinical trials, both for concerns about fetal development and what would be the implications of giving a pregnant women an experimental drug or vaccine and also for legal liability worries from manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies," Faden told "GMA" last month. "There’s a huge gap between what we know about the safety and effectiveness of a new drug or a new vaccine for the rest of the population and what we know about it specific to pregnancy."

In the case of the COVID-19 vaccines, health experts have only one of the three sources of evidence that are used to evaluate safety and efficacy during pregnancy: the data on non-pregnant people who were enrolled in the clinical trials, according to Faden.

From that, Faden said, health experts can try to glean what side effects may happen to people who are pregnant, but it is not an exact science.

However, it's considered typical -- and many argue ethically appropriate -- to study an unknown substance first in healthy adults and then progressively in broader and broader populations. Pregnant people and children are often tested later down the line because of concerns about potential long-term harm.

Some of the volunteers in prior COVID-19 vaccine trials that didn’t include pregnant women directly may still become pregnant during the trial. This will also give researchers some insights about the vaccine's safety among this group.

Former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Stephen Hahn, told ABC News in December that the agency planned to look at that data.

"In the clinical trials, we did not require a pregnancy test for entry into the clinical trials, which means that when we look at the data, there are likely going to be women of childbearing age who have gotten pregnant," then-commissioner Hahn told ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton in an interview on ABC News' Instagram Live. "So we are likely to be able to see data. I can't prejudge those data, but it's one of the things we'll have to look at."

"Will that be enough data for us to have confidence and say pregnant women should be vaccinated? I think that's something that we'll have to take a look at," he added.

7. What risk factors should pregnant people consider?

At this time, the CDC recommends that pregnant women be prioritized for vaccinations and encourages them to speak to their doctors about the risks and benefits of a vaccination.

The question of whether an expecting parent should receive a COVID-19 vaccine will eventually come down to a number of factors, including everything from the trimester, risk factors for COVID-19, ability to remain socially distanced in their lifestyle and occupation, guidance from federal and state officials and recommendations from a person's own physicians, experts say.

Similar to the flu vaccine, which was not tested on pregnant people in clinical trials, health experts will need to rely on continuously incoming data to make decisions around how safe the COVID-19 vaccines are during pregnancy.

Officials are doing the same for the general population, considering the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed, according to Faden, who noted that people who are pregnant should not be "unnecessarily alarmed."

The COVID-19 vaccines can be taken during any trimester. Since other vaccines are recommended during pregnancy, the CDC currently recommends spacing out vaccine appointments a few weeks apart, if possible.

8. Is COVID-19 more dangerous for pregnant people?

Even now, more than one year into the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., some questions remain about how pregnant people are impacted by COVID-19.

The CDC has shared data showing that pregnant people infected with COVID-19 are at an increased risk for "intensive care unit admission, invasive ventilation, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and death," compared to nonpregnant people.

Health experts say that with or without the vaccine, pregnant people need to continue to remain on high alert when it comes to COVID-19 by following safety protocols, including face mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing.

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