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The risk of COVID-19 during pregnancy and vaccination hesitancy

The risk of COVID-19 during pregnancy and vaccination hesitancy

By Dr Wai Fan Lam, MD, PhD, Gynecologist SMMC

There is a lot of discussion in the community when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccination. In this article, I will address the most common questions and misconceptions so people can make their own balanced decision with regards to getting vaccinated.

Should you get vaccinated if you are pregnant or breastfeeding?

Worldwide already 700 million people have received at least 1 COVID-19 vaccine dose. Almost 350 million people have received the full vaccination of 2 doses. The large numbers of vaccinated people provide valuable information on the safety and efficacy of vaccination.

It is interesting to note that already 100.000 women have received the vaccine during pregnancy or during breastfeeding. In a study of 35.000 women, the (minor) side effects for the mother are not different than for non-pregnant women. Furthermore, there are no side effects observed for the baby. The outcome for the baby is the same in vaccinated and non-vaccinated women. 

On the other hand, if a woman contracts COVID during pregnancy, her chance of being seriously ill or dying is 4 times higher than non-pregnant women. Therefore, a new CDC advice has been given recently to vaccinate women during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. CPS has already implemented the new recommendation. Pregnant women are always treated with extra care when it comes to introducing new medication and treatment. The fact that the COVID vaccine is found completely safe even in this vulnerable group, will hopefully convince more people to take the vaccine.

Vaccination hesitancy

There is a widespread skepticism toward COVID vaccination. As stated, already 700 million people have received 1 vaccine dose and 350 million people have received the full vaccination of 2 doses. This is an impressive amount of people who have been vaccinated. Yet severe side effects or death related to the vaccine are very scarce. In the USA, 4.434 deaths are reported that may be related to 259 million vaccinations (which is 0.0017%). But after further investigation none of the deaths turn out to be a consequence of the vaccination after all. As we know that the chance to die from COVID is 2% and the chance to die from vaccination is practically zero, the fear for the vaccine is thus totally ungrounded.

A frequently heard argument is that vaccination can’t prevent one from contracting COVID. This is true, but the argument is totally out of perspective. The chance of a vaccinated person to be infected with COVID is 0.01%. A non-vaccinated person has a 30% chance of getting COVID if someone in the household is positive. In other words, vaccination makes COVID infection 3.000 times less likely!

In case a vaccinated person gets COVID, the vaccination protects the person of getting severely ill or being hospitalized. The chance to die from COVID after vaccination is also much lower. For comparison, in the people older than 65 years: if 100 not vaccinated people are hospitalized for COVID, only 6 vaccinated persons will be hospitalized. As such, the protective benefit of vaccination is very clear.

Unfounded fear

It is worrisome that so many people are repeating the same, unfounded, fear for vaccination. Since birth, we have been vaccinated for disease like polio, measles, whooping cough, tetanus among other diseases. These vaccinations are however widely accepted. But with the COVID vaccination all of a sudden, a large number of the population is hesitant to get it. All negative news about vaccination gets huge attention, whereas the ever-continuous COVID casualties are accepted as normal.

Social media and disinformation

Social media seems to play an important role in spreading the fear and vaccine hesitancy. There is a lot of fake news and unchecked claims posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Two thirds of all misguided information about vaccination can be traced back to 12 people. They have been named the ‘Disinformation Dozen’. They deliberately spread fake facts about vaccination largely because of financial reasons. Sadly, most of them are still very much active on social media.

The actual total deaths related to COVID is estimated to be near 10 million. As the third COVID wave seems to be coming over St. Maarten at present, hopefully more people will choose to get vaccinated. People should understand that besides their own safety, vaccination will also prevent others, like their loved ones, to get infected. Mass vaccination is the only way to end the COVID wave.

Herd immunity

Herd immunity, that is the protective effect for spreading when most of the people in a community are vaccinated, will only take effect when at least 70% of the people is vaccinated. At this moment, only 27% of St. Maarten is vaccinated. The sooner the people get their vaccination, the sooner we can get back to a normal life. That is what we all want. But therefore, everybody has to participate and contribute to the vaccination program. In that perspective it is in fact anti-social not to get vaccinated. Hopefully we can break through the vaccination hesitancy. Saba has done it. Aruba has recently done it. Hopefully St. Maarten will follow soon.

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