Doctors advocate for pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccine priority
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Doctors are sounding the alarm after an alarming number of pregnant women have landed in the intensive care unit at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto, suffering more severe effects of COVID-19.
“It’s heartbreaking and devastating to see young and healthy individuals who are coming in, deteriorating very rapidly in front of our eyes and ending up unable to speak or breathe, and ending up on a ventilator,” says Dr. Wendy Whittle, Mount Sinai’s head of labour and delivery.
Thirty per cent of patients in the hospital’s main ICU are pregnant or immediately postpartum women with COVID-19.
Doctors say the spike in severe symptoms among pregnant women has been sudden, and that expectant mothers appear especially susceptible to the variants.
“Requiring support for breathing, requiring ICU admissions, mechanical ventilation, high levels of oxygen, and not just the pregnant person needing support, it’s not safe for the pregnancy itself,” says Dr. Tali Bolger, the chair of family medicine obstetrics and St. Michael’s Hospital.
Now, The Ontario Society of OBGYNs are calling for the immediate prioritization of pregnant women for vaccination to protect them and their babies.
It’s a story Andrea Weston of LaSalle is watching closely, as she and her husband are expecting their first child in a few weeks.
Weston works in the healthcare field and because of her daily work, qualified for her first dose of a vaccine about one month ago.
“I consider myself very, very lucky,” she says, noting some pregnant mothers haven’t even had access to a single dose.
Weston and her OB contacted the health unit, hoping to get the second dose accelerated before the four-month mark so she could be fully inoculated prior to her child’s birth.
“If there was an opportunity to be fully vaccinated before I deliver, I was certainly motivated to make that happen,” she says. “Are we considered high risk enough to be considered full vaccination sooner?”
Dr. Wajid Ahmed, the medical officer of health at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says they take their advice from the national advisory committee on immunization — which isn’t suggesting shortening those vaccine intervals.
“I don’t think there are enough scientific data to validate at this time that pregnant women are at a greater risk,” says Dr. Ahmed. “They may be, I’m not saying they won’t be, but we don’t have enough scientific evidence to say.”
On Monday, the health minister said her government did not have plans to move pregnant women higher up in the vaccine priority list. But she did say: “If a woman's physician primary physician believes it's important to immunize her quickly then, of course, we would follow the physician’s advice.”
The Ministry of Health did not respond to multiple requests from CTV News to clarify whether that meant some pregnant women could get the vaccine now.
“It’s time to consider the risks of pregnancy right now, what our bodies are going through,” says Weston.