GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — As more groups become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, a lot of pregnant women may be wondering if the vaccine is right for them or how it’ll affect their baby.
Doctors say there are a lot of different factors women should think about when making a decision.
Tatum Tithof, from Kent County is due with her first child in May. Even though she won’t be eligible for the COVID vaccine for some time, she said that she’ll be taking a pass.
Tithof said, “I think the decision that I’ve made so far for me and my baby, is that we’re kind of going to go with either a delayed route or not at all.”
Tithof is not the only expecting mom with one with concerns.
Dr. Michael Tsimis, a maternal fetal medicine specialist with Spectrum Health Medical Group said a common question he hears is about the mRNA component of the vaccine.
He said, “There’s two parts to the cell there’s the nucleus and the cytoplasm. The cytoplasm is actually where the mRNA is, the actual genetic material for all our cells is in the nucleus. the mRNA never enters the nucleus, it is unable to do that, so the mechanism of action of mRNA makes it impossible for it to enter our genetic material and alter it in any way.”
Dr. Tsimis said there are lots of different variables pregnant women should consider in talking with your healthcare provider.
“What priority group are you in? What is your risk of acquisition for the actual virus? That includes day- to-day, that includes work environment, that includes home environment as well. The other thing to keep in mind is what is the community transmission?” Dr. Tsimis said.
For Dr. Sheetal Das an Internal Medicine Hospitalist also at Spectrum Health getting the vaccine was a no-brainer, even though she’s breastfeeding; another group with questions about the vaccine.
Dr. Das said, “I’m seeing COVID patients daily, so I know that the benefits definitely outweigh the risks, because I want to be around for my son.”
Dr. Tsimis said that COVID-19 has been shown to have a greater impact on pregnant women.
“We do know when it comes to respiratory symptoms, when a pregnant mom actually acquires COVID, they have incidentally shown to be worse, ” he said.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has not specifically recommended or warned against the vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The organization instead has said that vaccine should not be withheld from those groups.
Dr. Tsimis said, “The preliminary safety data that we have is very reassuring that this is a safe vaccine for pregnant women who are otherwise eligible.”
Dr. Das, along with others, understand the hesitancy, especially since pregnant women weren’t involved in the Pfizer and Moderna studies. The practice is nothing new due to ethical concerns.
“I think the decision is very persona. I really implore people to talk to their physicians and come up with a good and informed decision on whether or not to pursue getting the vaccine,” said Dr. Das.
Tithof said she is reading all the information she can on the vaccine and is keeping a close eye on what more safety studies show in the coming months. After having COVID back in October, she said her baby is perfectly healthy and she’d feel more comfortable skipping the vaccine for right now and continue other safety practices.
She said, “Personally for me, because of the experience I had, I think I would be ok without it.”
Tithof added that it’s up to everyone to do their own research.
“It’s really just about making an informed decision for you and your child and making sure that you’re on your game. You read about it, you educate yourself, and you make the best decision and it looks different for every person.”
With those differences in mind, especially when it comes to pregnancy, doctors suggests starting with good questions and working together on the best choice.
Dr. Tsimis said, “The priority groups are sort of a first guide, but I think it also has to be a decision that has to be made with a pregnant mom in conjunction with their provider.”
Both Pfizer and Moderna are still doing safety studies that now include pregnant and breastfeeding women who have already gotten the vaccine to monitor any effects.