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UBC launches COVID-19 vaccine study for pregnant, breastfeeding individuals

File photo - Researchers at the University of British Columbia are attempting to collect real-time vaccination data from pregnant or breastfeeding individuals. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford, File)

University of British Columbia researchers are launching a Canada-wide COVID-19 vaccine registry and survey to collect immunization data from pregnant and breastfeeding individuals.

As the vaccine rollout continues, the risks and benefits of immunization for these groups remain largely unknown, according to the university, because initial clinical trials didn’t include them.

Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding will be able to register for the study online on a volunteer basis and do not need to be already vaccinated or planning to get one.

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

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UBC’s Dr. Deborah Money, an obstetrics and gynaecology professor, says there is is an urgent need to monitor outcomes related to COVID-19 vaccines.

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“While COVID-19 clinical trials with pregnant and breastfeeding individuals are now underway, the initial clinical trials excluded both groups so there remains a huge knowledge gap,” Money said in a release.

“There is reassuring data emerging from the vaccine rollout in the U.S., but at this time there is no Canadian data on the impact of these vaccines in pregnancy,” she said, adding it’s also important to monitor vaccine uptake.

While the overall risk remains low, early results from the surveillance project show a concerning trend — pregnant people who test positive for the virus are more likely to be hospitalized or admitted to the ICU compared to the general population.

A number of provinces, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have already prioritized pregnant people for immunization.

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Read more: Pregnant women in B.C. now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine

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The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) also recommend individuals be offered the COVID-19 vaccine anytime during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

This project, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada through the Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group and the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, is being conducted in partnership with vaccine surveillance efforts across the country.

“Our particular project will provide those who are pregnant and breastfeeding, health care providers, the PHAC, NACI, and provincial vaccine advisory committees with actual Canadian data on safety and effectiveness to guide decisions,” Money said.

It will also address unknowns surrounding COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy and lactation, like the generated immune response and whether or not immunity is transferred to infants.

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