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

The City of Vernon is sending a letter to the provincial government to request that church be deemed an essential service amid the pandemic. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon mayor scolded for revealing stance on making church essential

Coun. Scott Anderson calls Cummings’ actions ‘arrogant’

Heather Barker. (File)
Manslaughter charge laid in Vernon woman’s 2018 death

Shaun Ross Wiebe, 43, faces manslaughter and assault charges related to the death of Heather Barker

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin makes preparations at Toronto’s mass vaccination clinic, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
3 deaths, 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

One death connected to outbreak at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, where 20 patients and 28 staff have tested positive

Kalamalka Secondary School staff and students have been warned to self isolate if showing COVID-19 symptoms after possible exposure on March 13, 2020. (Google Maps)
First case of COVID-19 in Coldstream school

Three more schools confirm positive cases

The City of Vernon’s Recreation Services is bringing back indoor walking at Kal Tire Place, with public skating also in the works over the Christmas holidays. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon rec hard hit in pandemic

Cancellations and closures see expected drops in fourth-quarter report

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens
From Myanmar to Creston: The story of a refugee

In October 2007, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two Myanmar soldiers.

Kamloops This Week.
48 COVID-19 cases and one death associated with outbreak at Kamloops hospital

One of the 20 patients infected has died, meanwhile 28 staff with COVID-19 are isolating at home

The scene of a serious crash on Highway 33 in Kelowna that killed one and severely injured two others on June 20, 2018. (File)
Driver found guilty of causing death, injury in 2018 Kelowna crash

Travis Ryan Hennessy will face sentencing at a later date

(Michael Rodriguez - Capital News staff)
Downtown stairwell fire suspicious, Kelowna RCMP say

Crews were called to Gotham Nightclub for a report of a stairwell fire

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Head Brewer Kody Rosentreter, owner Wes Greve and taproom manager Lisa Deleo celebrated North Basin Brewing’s grand opening Jan. 22 and 23, 2020. (Contributed)
Osoyoos’ first microbrewery celebrates grand opening

The brewery hopes to show that the Okanagan is more than just wine country

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses media from the front steps of council chambers on March 23. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna, West Kelowna still looking to opt-out of speculation tax

Mayors say spec tax has missed the mark, revenue largely coming out of Canadians’ pockets

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Most Read