Please note: Since this article was published on January 21st, The World Health Organization (WHO) has adjusted its guidelines and dropped opposition to administering this vaccine to pregnant and lactating womxn.
Keep watching this URL for all of the latest guidelines.
Pregnancy can be the most incredible journey, but with the fear and anxiety that comes with a global pandemic it can be intimidating. As COVID-19 vaccine research developed quickly, pregnant and postpartum womxn were not included in any of the studies, causing backlash in the medical community about the ethics of excluding the pregnant population from this important research. As a result, individual womxn and their medical providers are left to decide whether or not to receive the vaccine when it becomes available to them, weighing the risks of exposure against possible side effects, which aren’t fully known yet.
Should pregnant and postpartum womxn get the vaccine? How about pregnant and lactating frontline healthcare workers, whose work puts them at a higher risk for exposure? Is there any one right answer or formula to decide?
Often, pregnant womxn are disproportionately impacted by emerging medical research. In 1974, Congress passed the National Research Act, officially deeming pregnant womxn a “vulnerable population,” and excluding them from many treatment and medication trials, to avoid the risk of harm to fetuses. While medical ethics have evolved since then to allow for more inclusion of the pregnant population in research, many companies simply avoid testing on pregnant people because of the potential legal risk.
Consequently, there have increasingly been calls from the medical community to include pregnant people in vaccine trials. But until that happens, many birthing professionals are left frustrated, grappling with making medical recommendations around a new vaccine without knowing the risks involved.
In fact, in its latest report, last updated on January 8, 2021, The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that due to insufficient data it didn’t recommend the vaccination for pregnant and lactating womxn at this time, unless they are part of a group who has an unavoidable risk of exposure (a health worker, for instance).
Not only is COVID-19 leaving pregnant people anxious, but it’s also leaving them isolated. Many of our members who have been pregnant during the pandemic have had to go alone to important medical appointments, and they’ve lost the ability to have the support of a partner or family member at sonograms, check-ups, and even in labor and delivery.
Dr. Irina Burd, M.D., Ph.D., the Director of Integrated Research for Maternal Fetal Medicine at Johns Hopkins, whose clinical focus is caring for expectant mothers and their babies, has seen many of her colleagues at Johns Hopkins who are pregnant, opt to be vaccinated. For many of them, she says, the potential risk of contracting the virus, outweighs the risks of side effects from the vaccine. For many other women, however, that decision isn’t as clear-cut.
To read the full article, visit Poppy Seed Health.