The head of the Ontario Medical Society says the risk of COVID-19 in pregnant and lactating women is higher than the risk of getting the virus vaccine.
Dr. Samantha Hill, a heart surgeon in Toronto, says pregnant and breastfeeding women have not been included in clinical trials, but worries that the message many pregnant women receive is not to get vaccinated.
It echoes the concerns expressed last month by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, and reiterated in a statement by the Ontario Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on Tuesday.
Everyone says that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may have a higher risk of serious illness if they take COVID-19, and that especially for women who are at high risk for exposure to the virus, the risks of not being vaccinated outweigh the known risks of vaccination.
Hill says she is still breastfeeding her youngest child and will not hesitate to get a vaccine when it is her turn and would also get the vaccine if she was pregnant.
She says pregnancy already causes stress on the body’s immune and vascular systems and COVID-19 could pose a major risk to a pregnant woman or her fetus.
“We have no choice but to live in a society without COVID,” Hill told The Canadian Press. “We have the choice to accept the risk of the vaccine or the risk of COVID, and the risk of the vaccine certainly seems to me to be much lower than the risk of COVID.”
Statistics show that between eight and 11 percent of pregnant women infected with COVID-19 ended up in hospital and between two and four percent needed intensive care. This compares to about eight percent of all COVID patients who need hospitalization and about 1.5 percent who need intensive care.
The National Society of Obstetricians says that 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 serious illness is higher for pregnant women who have other risk factors such as asthma. , obesity, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.
Women are over-represented in many of the occupations with the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19, including healthcare.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization in December recommended that the vaccine not be administered to populations not included in clinical trials unless the benefits of the vaccine are considered to outweigh the potential risk of the vaccine.
Hill says pregnant and lactating women are never included in clinical trials of new drugs or vaccines until the risks to non-pregnant people are known.
However, he notes that 12 women who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during the large Phase 3 trial reported pregnancies during the trial and had no adverse effects from the vaccine.
National society says overall data on vaccine and pregnancy are scarce.
“What is known, however, is that an unvaccinated pregnant person remains at risk for COVID-19 infection and remains at increased risk of serious morbidity if infected compared to non-pregnant counterparts,” the statement said. “Serious COVID-19 infection poses risks to both the mother and the fetus.”