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

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Heavy flows of water pooled on Davis Road after a lead to a fire hydrant burst on Thursday Jan. 21. (Jim Tredwell photo)
Fire hydrant connection burst at Davis Road and Battie Drive

Crews worked well into the night on Thursday Jan. 21 to staunch the flow of water

A pedestrian was transported to hospital after being struck while crossing Roberts Street. (Cole Schisler photo)
Pedestrian struck crossing Roberts Street

The driver remained on scene and is cooperating with police

Emergency crews were called to a semi-truck crash along the Trans-Canada Highway at Oyster Sto’Lo Road on Friday, Jan. 22. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Semi truck crashes off the side of the highway in Ladysmith

Driver taken to hospital as precaution after single-vehicle crash Friday

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy rushed to emergency 3 times after ingesting drugs in Vancouver Island public spaces

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

Most Read