When Katie Waite was deciding whether or not to get the COVID vaccine while pregnant with her fifth child, she reached out to many trusted sources.
Her doctor recommended she get the vaccine. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists said that the vaccine “shouldn’t be withheld” from pregnant women. Statements by the Catholic Church — which Waite is a member of — pushed her toward the vaccine, which is what her gut was telling her as well.
“After a lot of consideration regarding both side effects and medical lab ethics and procedures, I decided the pros outweigh the cons and decided to get the vaccine,” said Waite, who is able to receive the vaccine because of her work as a teacher. “I will most likely be in front of my class and around students, whose outside activities and socialization I am not in control of, before I give birth.”
Waite has received her first dose, but many pregnant women are still waiting for their chance to get the vaccine. As they struggle with the personal decision, they’re also dealing with ever-changing and sometimes conflicting information from regulatory agencies about the safety of the vaccine for pregnant women.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that whether to get vaccinated is a personal choice that women should discuss with their doctors. The World Health Organization first said that the vaccine wasn’t safe for pregnant women, then softened its decision.
All of this has left some women frustrated. In some cases, the hospitals and other organizations administering the vaccine have refused to vaccinate pregnant people, said mother and OB/GYN Danielle Jones, who posted about the issue on Instagram. She said that refusing to vaccinate pregnant people prioritizes the hypothetical health of the fetus of the health of the mother.
“This is UNACCEPTABLE and is a threat to autonomy which sends a clear message: The known risk of COVID for you is not more important than the unknown fetal risk of vaccination & you, as an autonomous adult human, are incapable of making that decision because you are pregnant,” she wrote.
Jones argues that pregnant people — especially those working on the frontlines during the pandemic — should be free to make the decision that’s right for them, just like everyone else.
“Pregnant healthcare workers are an extremely high risk category with regards to risk of COVID-19 exposure,” Jones writes. “Beyond that, pregnant people are higher risk of severe disease if they contract COVID in pregnancy. This threatens their life and, by proxy, the life of their baby.”
Some states are acknowledging that by prioritizing pregnant women to get the vaccine. In Pennsylvania, pregnant women, along with other high-risk groups, are able to be vaccinated now. One Pennsylvania mom, who asked not to be named because her pregnancy is not yet public, was thankful for the chance to book her vaccination.
“I signed up the day I became eligible to get the vaccine,” she said. She’ll be nine weeks when she gets the shot, and although she’s a little worried about navigating side effects while also battling morning sickness, she feels that risk is worth it.
“I’d like to get vaccinated as soon as I can,” she said.
Because she has a history of complicated pregnancies and even a stillbirth, she expects to be spending a lot of time in the hospital during this pregnancy. After 24 weeks, she’ll need routine stress tests.
“I’d like to be protected before that point,” she said.
Even though Waite doesn’t have a history of complicated pregnancies, she shares the Pennsylvania mom’s sense of relief at knowing she has a level of protection from coronavirus.
“I now feel better about going to the hospital to deliver this baby vaccinated rather than not,” she said. “It really is reducing the stress of having a COVID hospital delivery.”
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