Ontario says pregnant women have been moved to the “highest risk” category on the province’s COVID-19 vaccine priority list and can book an appointment as of Friday.
Pregnant women were previously in the “at risk” category in Phase 2 of Ontario’s vaccine priority list, which would have put them at the end of the phase in May or even later.
“In response to emerging data on the increased risk of severe illness for pregnant women, all pregnant individuals will be eligible to register for vaccination appointments under the highest risk health conditions in the Phase 2 prioritization guidance starting today,” a statement from the ministry of health read on Friday.
The provincial online booking portal was updated to reflect the change. A doctor’s note is not necessary, and women can expect to wait about 16 weeks for a second dose.
Ontario was the first province to prioritize pregnant women in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan in early March as more information became available saying the vaccines were safe and effective.
At the time, Christine Elliott, minister of health, said her team was learning more about vaccines and pregnancy
Doctors and health care officials have been vocal in recent weeks about the risk pregnant women have facing the COVID-19 variants of concern.
“In 20 years of practice, I have never felt more compelled to get a message out to the public than this one,” Dr. Mark Walker, a high-risk obstetrician and epidemiologist in Ottawa told Global News on April 16.
“The situation is urgent for pregnant individuals to get the vaccine.”
He explained the new variants are 30 to 50 per cent more virulent than the original COVID wild type (a strain of virus that contains no major mutations).
And while we don’t know the full magnitude of the new COVID-19 variants, Walker said there’s already been a substantial impact, pointing to the situation at Mount Sinai Hospital where pregnant women make up approximately 20 per cent of the ICU occupancy.
Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson are the vaccines currently approved in Canada. The first three require two shots administered several weeks apart while the fourth requires only one. J & J vaccines have not yet arrived in Canada.
— with files from Miranda Anthistle and The Canadian Press