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‘We don’t take this lightly’: Manitoba health officials add pregnant women to vaccine list

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There's not much information on how the COVID-19 vaccine affects pregnant women, but many Manitoba mothers say they're in line anyway. Anya Nazeravich has more – Mar 19, 2021

Despite a lack of data, pregnant women in Manitoba with select health concerns made the cut for the province’s Priority List 1 for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Limited research aside, Johanna Wood, 35, made the decision to get in line, but not without some added pressure.

“That’s unfortunate that now the decision is kind of resting on the shoulders of women who are pregnant and have to make this choice individually for themselves,” says Wood.

Excluding pregnant women from clinical trials isn’t uncommon.

Read more: Babies born to COVID-19 vaccinated moms could have antibodies, study suggests

Dr. Vanessa Poliquin, an obstetrician gynecologist at Health Sciences Centre, says vaccines and other over-the-counter or prescription drugs won’t include pregnant women.

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“A lot of the safety data that we have has emerged with post-marketing surveillance and the data that we’ve accrued over time provides evidence of safety.”

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines, Poliquin says inadvertent pregnancies which happened during clinical trials didn’t show any red flags.

The lead of Manitoba’s vaccine task force seconds those findings.

Read more: ‘So much unknown’: Becoming a mother during a pandemic

Dr. Joss Reimer says the lack of data for pregnant women and COVID-19 vaccine isn’t any different than any other treatment that isn’t pregnancy specific.

“We often in clinical practice have to function on very little trial data to fall back on, and use the information we have from the non-pregnant population and apply that to the pregnant population,” Reimer says.

What they have seen, according to Reimer, are the negative outcomes that occur when someone who is pregnant and contracts COVID-19.

A statement on behalf of the Infectious Disease Committee of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (SOGC) says pregnant women are at an increased risk of invasive ventilation, and the risk of infection or morbidity from the virus outweighs the risk of being vaccinated.

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“We don’t take this lightly,” Reimer says.

Ultimately, the pandemic has resulted in different challenges during pregnancy for Wood and vaccine eligibility was simply added to the laundry list.

It’s a line she can cross out at the end of the day, saying getting the shot is a sigh of relief.

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