November 27, 2021

pregnant women facing the dilemma of vaccination

“Pregnant women are the forgotten people of this crisis”, sighs Chloé Poudens, graphic designer in Bordeaux. At eight months pregnant, the 28-year-old woman considers that not enough is known about the long-term consequences of vaccination against Covid-19 on the health of newborns and has chosen not to not to be vaccinated, even if it means extending his confinement for a few months to avoid risky social contacts. “We were not in clinical trials and yet we are told to get vaccinated”, contests the Bordelaise, whose midwife however warned her, in April: attention to the third trimester, the most subject to complications.

Data has long been patchy concerning pregnant women facing Covid-19, the latter having been sidelined during clinical trials that ultimately led to the approval of the messenger RNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. “This is not an isolated event, because pregnant women have historically been excluded from the majority of clinical trials, limiting their representation in the development of treatments”, thus regret three American researchers in a text published on October 19 in Science Translational Medicine.

Awareness campaign

Despite this initial shortcoming, since the start of the pandemic, many population studies have been carried out and all converge in the same direction: catching Covid-19 during pregnancy increases the risks of premature birth and admission to intensive care, to for both mother and child. Conversely, among the eleven studies carried out in five different countries including a total of 81,458 vaccinated pregnant women – according to a count by Viki Male, lecturer at Imperial College -, there has never been an increase in false diapers, premature births or birth defects as a result of vaccination.

The risk of complications is so high in late pregnancy that the National Health Service launched an awareness campaign in mid-October aimed at unvaccinated women expecting a child. According to UK data, between July and October 2021, pregnant women accounted for nearly a third (32%) of women aged 16 to 49 on extracorporeal oxygenation in intensive care, up from just 6% at the start of the pandemic, in March 2020. This therapy is used in the most severe cases, when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by the disease that a ventilator is no longer sufficient to maintain oxygen levels. At the same time, an Israeli study published on October 10 in The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, showed that pregnant women with Covid-19 are more likely to suffer from gestational diabetes, low white blood cell counts and heavier breathing during and after birth. The disease can also increase the risk for newborns of breathing problems.

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