One of the groups holding out against getting a COVID-19 vaccine have been pregnant women.
In the weeks before Christmas, it was revealed that between 30 and 40 per cent of pregnant women and new mothers have resisted vaccination, largely because they feared the vaccine might hurt their unborn or newborn child.
At that time, the Royal Women’s Hospital advised that “significant numbers” of unvaccinated pregnant women had needed intensive care treatment.
The fact remains, as this explainer at The Conversation makes clear:
“Pregnancy is a significant risk factor for serious illness and death from COVID-19 – both for the mother and the child.”
How bad does it get?
The author, Dr Matthew Woodruff, an immunologist at Emory University, advised:
“Detailed research into pregnancy during the pandemic has shown that mothers who contract COVID-19 are five times more likely to be admitted to an ICU and 22 times more likely to die than their non-infected counterparts.”
The same study found that “mothers infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy are twice as likely to require ICU care for their newborns, or to lose their children shortly after birth”.
In June last year, the Royal Australasian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Australia’s independent expert advisory group on immunisation, ATAGI, advised that pregnant women should get vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at any stage of their pregnancy, to counter the risks of these severe outcomes.
You can read that joint statement here.
In September, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), issued an urgent health advisory for pregnant women, and those planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, to get vaccinated.
Less than half of these women in the US were vaccinated at that time.
And now some good news
Last week, Dr Dana Meaney-Delman, Chief of Infant Outcomes Monitoring Research and Prevention Branch with the CDC, announced at a press briefing that vaccinations were not only safe for babies, but could keep them out of hospital.
A new study, she said, provided “real world evidence that getting a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy might help protect infants less than six months of age from hospitalization due to COVID-19”.
The study found that COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy “was 61 per cent protective”.
This means that babies less than six months old, whose mothers were vaccinated, were 61 per cent less likely to be hospitalised with COVID-19.
Dr Meaney-Delman advised that 84 per cent of babies hospitalised with COVID-19 were born to people who were not vaccinated during pregnancy.
The study found that among babies with COVID-19 admitted to ICU “the sickest babies, 88 per cent were born to mothers who were not vaccinated before or during pregnancy”.
She said the one baby who died in the study was born to a mother who was not vaccinated.
You can read a transcript of the press briefing here.