(NEXSTAR) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert Wednesday urging pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC said it “strongly recommends” the shot for women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant or who may want children in the future.

Data from hospitals across the country show that roughly 97 percent of pregnant women who were hospitalized with a confirmed case of COVID-19 were unvaccinated. Along with the risks of severe illness and death for pregnant and recently pregnant women, the virus also puts babies at increased risk of preterm birth and admission to the ICU, according to the CDC. Stillbirths have also been reported.

The vaccination numbers are lower among pregnant women than non-pregnant women, despite the known risks.

“I strongly encourage those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to talk with their health care provider about the protective benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a statement.

Just 31 percent of pregnant people were fully vaccinated before or during their pregnancy as of Sept. 18, COVID Data Tracker stats show, with distinct differences among races and ethnicities. For non-Hispanic Black women, that percentage is even lower, at just 15.6 percent.

The lack of vaccination has led to more than 125,000 cases, 22,000 hospitalizations and 161 deaths among pregnant women with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Twenty-two of those deaths came in August alone, the highest number on record for a single month.

The CDC, which announced there was enough data to deem the vaccine safe for pregnant women last month, issued the alert in a bid to “accelerate” vaccinations to protect higher risk pregnant women and their unborn children.

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