Dr. Samantha Hill, president of the Ontario Medical Association, is shown in a handout photo. Hill says the risk COVID-19 poses to pregnant and breastfeeding women is higher than the risk of taking the vaccine, even though no vaccines have yet been studied on those populations. THE CANADIAN PRESS

Dr. Samantha Hill, president of the Ontario Medical Association, is shown in a handout photo. Hill says the risk COVID-19 poses to pregnant and breastfeeding women is higher than the risk of taking the vaccine, even though no vaccines have yet been studied on those populations. THE CANADIAN PRESS

Doctors urge high-risk pregnant, breastfeeding women to get access to COVID vaccines

Women are overrepresented in many of the occupations at highest risk of COVID-19 exposure

The head of the Ontario Medical Association says the risk COVID-19 poses to pregnant and breastfeeding women is higher than the risk of taking a vaccine against the virus that causes it.

Dr. Samantha Hill, a cardiac surgeon in Toronto, says because pregnant and breastfeeding women haven’t been included in clinical trials yet she is worried the message many pregnant women are getting is to not get vaccinated.

She echoes concerns raised last month by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, and reiterated in a statement from the Ontario Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Tuesday.

All say women who are pregnant or breastfeeding might be at higher risk of serious illness if they get COVID-19 and that particularly for women at high risk of exposure to the virus, the risks of not getting the vaccine outweigh the unknown risks of getting vaccinated.

Hill says she is still breastfeeding her youngest child and won’t hesitate to get a vaccine when her turn comes, and also would get the vaccine if she were pregnant.

She says pregnancy already puts stress on the body’s immune system and vascular system, and COVID-19 could pose great risk to a pregnant woman or her fetus.

“We don’t have the choice of living in a COVID-free society,” Hill said, in an interview with The Canadian Press. “We have the choice of accepting the risk of the vaccine, or accepting the risk of COVID and the risk of the vaccine certainly seems a lot lower to me than the risk of COVID.”

Statistics suggest between eight and 11 per cent of pregnant women who contracted COVID-19 ended up in hospital, and between two and four per cent needed intensive care. That compares to about eight per cent of all COVID patients who have needed hospitalization and about 1.5 per cent who needed intensive care.

The national society of obstetricians says pregnant women with COVID-19 have an increased risk of needing to be placed on ventilators compared to other women of the same age, and that the risk of severe illness are greater for pregnant women who have other risk factors including asthma, obesity, non-pregnancy related diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.

Women are overrepresented in many of the occupations at highest risk of COVID-19 exposure including in health care.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization in December recommended against giving the vaccine to populations who were not included in clinical trials unless the benefits of being vaccinated are deemed to outweigh the potential risk of the vaccine.

Hill says pregnant and breastfeeding women are never included in the clinical trials of new drugs or vaccines until the risks to non-pregnant individuals are known.

But she notes that 12 women who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during its large Phase 3 trial reported pregnancies during the trial and had no adverse outcomes from taking the vaccine.

The national society says the overall evidence for the vaccine and pregnancy is scant.

“What is known, however, is that an unvaccinated pregnant individual remains at risk of COVID-19 infection and remains at heightened risk of severe morbidity if infected compared to non-pregnant counterparts,” the statement says. “Severe infection with COVID-19 carries risks to both maternal and fetal health”

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Mountainview Lodge photo)
Santa and Mrs. Claus payed a special visit to the residents at Mountainview Lodge in Kitimat back in December to help raise their spirits during the difficult Christmas season.
Good News, Kitimat!

Bringing some local good news to your week

Black Press file photo
Clare’s Corner: Baking the day away

My grandmother was a fantastic baker, and it’s a hobby she’s passed down through generations

A BC Hydro outage is affecting nearly 4000 customers in Kitimat. The cause of the outage is under investigation. (Screenshot/BC Hydro Outage Map)
Cable fault responsible for Kitimat power outage, BC Hydro says

At its peak, the BC Hydro power outage affected near 4,000 customers

Graph showing the 2020 passenger totals at the Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace. (Submitted/Northwest Regional Airport)
New year brings an end to a turbulent 2020 at Northwest Regional Airport

Passenger totals half of what they were in 2019

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Heather Lucier, a pastor at Kelowna Harvest Fellowship, speaks to an RCMP officer outside of Harvest Ministries on Sunday, Jan. 10. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna church fined 2nd time for violating public health order

Harvest Ministries in Kelowna has previously said they will fight the tickets in court

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

sdf
2nd in-school violence incident in Mission, B.C, ends in arrest

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

BC Emergency Health Services has deployed the Major Incident Response Team (MIRRT) as COVID-19 positive cases rise in the Williams Lake region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.’s rapid response paramedics deployed to Williams Lake as COVID-19 cases climb

BC Emergency Health Services has sent a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to the lakecity

(Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Most Read