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As if expecting a baby during a global pandemic wasn’t stressful enough, many expectant mothers are now faced with a dilemma ahead of the vaccine rollout in Australia: should they get the COVID vaccine?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already indicated in its briefings that pregnancy puts women at a higher risk of severe COVID-19, along with risks of pre-term births. They do not currently recommend the vaccine for pregnant women.
Most recently, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) emphasised the need for more information. Keeping in mind Australia’s ninth consecutive day with no community transmission (as of 26 January), the RANZCOG asserted more testing and data before recommending the vaccine to expecting mothers.
“Our advice is let’s watch, let’s wait, let’s get some more data on safety and pregnancy prior to recommending it universally,” Dr Vijay Roach, President of the RANZCOG, told the ABC.
Sydneysider Shefali Yalgudkar, who is seven months along in her pregnancy, describes this whole experience as “worrisome.”
“In the first few months, it was a concern being in malls and public transport. My doctor’s advice was to sanitise often, wear masks when outdoors, and most importantly, not get stressed out by constant COVID-related news,” she told Indian Link.
Of course, like many others, she’s been reading up about the development and efficacy of the vaccine – especially its impact on pregnancies.
“Our immunity is already low during pregnancy, and there’s so much medicine going into our bodies. There’s always the fear of how all this will affect the baby too,” Shefali elaborated.
(In a statement, the RANZCOG noted risk of complications from respiratory diseases like COVID-19 due to physiological changes in a pregnant women’s body. However, they also reiterated that the majority of women with COVID-19 would see mild symptoms, and that there is no evidence of an increased risk of miscarriage from the vaccine.)
Would Shefali get the COVID vaccine, given the chance?
“I don’t think so,” she said.
New mum Meera Pant*, who delivered her baby just a week ago in Melbourne, echoes the sentiment.
“I’ve already had my baby, but I still won’t go ahead with the vaccine because I will be breastfeeding,” she told Indian Link.
Natasha Varma, who is eight months pregnant, has not received any specific advice from her OB-GYN on the vaccine.
Did the advice from the RANZCOG deter her?
“No, I wasn’t planning to take the COVID vaccine anyway,” she confirmed.
Like many mothers, the lack of information and testing raises concerns about the impact of the vaccine on her and her new-born baby.
While knowledge continues to evolve around the COVID-19 pandemic and the new vaccines, Dr Roach’s advice might be the best course of action for now.
*Name has been changed upon request.