Doctors say COVID-19 variants put pregnant women at greater risk, cite ‘urgent’ need for vaccines

Ariane Chang is in her last trimester of being pregnant and with less than five weeks to go, she says she has been fortunate to have had a healthy and happy pregnancy.

But when it comes to figuring out if she wants to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it has been more difficult.

“It’s a new vaccine and I want a little more time to pass and a little bit more research done on the effects of getting the vaccine while there’s a baby in the womb,” said Chang.

And it’s that lack of information that has made it difficult for many mothers-to-be when it comes to deciding whether or not to get the vaccine.

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“The decision is on you. No one wants that liability to make that decision for you,” said Kelsey Bell, who as a health-care worker was able to get the vaccine when she was five months pregnant.

But she said she did a lot of research on her own because there wasn’t a lot of information out there.

“It’s stressful and even before your baby is born you’re making these really important decisions for their health and what can protect them,” said Bell.

Now, more than a year into the pandemic, some doctors are urging pregnant woman to get vaccinated.

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“In 20 years of practice, I have never felt more compelled to get a message out to the public than this one,” said Dr. Mark Walker, a high-risk obstetrician and epidemiologist in Ottawa.

“The situation is urgent for pregnant individuals to get the vaccine.”

He explained the new variants are 30 to 50 per cent more virulent than the original COVID wild type (a strain of virus that contains no major mutations).

And while we don’t know the full magnitude of the new COVID-19 variants, Walker said there’s already been a substantial impact pointing to the situation at Mount Sinai Hospital where pregnant women make up approximately per cent of the ICU occupancy.

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He agreed there has been a lack of information, but said pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy can and should get vaccinated.

Ontario recently became the first province to prioritize pregnant women in its vaccine rollout as more evidence and data showed it’s safe and effective.

“For the fetus and newborn infant, a vaccinated mother who is protected from COVID is less likely to deliver pre-term and have the complications of prematurity,” said Walker, explaining the benefits far outweigh the risks for everyone involved.

“Even within two weeks of vaccinations, the antibodies the mother produces are transmitted to the newborn child.”

Dr. Walker and his colleagues hope that by getting this message out to pregnant women, they can help them to be more informed on making the best decision for their growing family.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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