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

Williams Lake and the Chilcotin is part of a community cluster declared by Interior Health Jan. 20, 2021. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
53 more COVID-19 cases linked to ‘social gatherings’ in Williams Lake: Interior Health

Cariboo Chilcotin schools have seen a surge in COVID-19 exposures

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Esk’etemc First Nation (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins takes part in Secwepemc Health Caucus’s “Raising Our Spirits” ceremony Friday, Jan. 22. (Secwepemc Health Caucus Facebook image)
Secwepemc Nation raises spirits through song

More than 150 join virtual ceremony

Carla Bullinger says that sometimes keeping our language simple is the most efficient way to communicate with one another. (Photo submitted)
REACH A READER 2021: Literacy matters now more than ever

There is no way to tell just by looking at someone whether they have literacy challenges

Angus Wellburn, 4, and his sister, Ida, 1, with their mom, Jane Wellburn, read a children’s story posted on the window of the Williams Lake Library as part of an ongoing literacy week display. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
REACH-A-READER 2021: Family literacy – stretching the moment

What does Family Literacy actually mean and why is it so important?

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Most Read