Pregnant women not a COVID-19 vaccine priority while variants make them more sick

Taylor Toni is pregnant with her first child, due in a matter of weeks. It’s a timeline she says she can rely on, unlike Manitoba’s vaccine rollout.

“I would get it as soon as I could,” Toni said of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Although pregnant women originally qualified on the province’s vaccine Priority List 1 in March for the AstraZeneca shot, a change means they are not currently eligible for any coronavirus vaccine.

Health Canada has approved the vaccine for people under 55, but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended the shot only be offered to those 55 and older due to a slightly elevated risk of an extremely rare blood clot disorder.

Now, with variants of concern (VOC) running rampant across much of Canada, more pregnant women are being hospitalized with more severe cases of the virus.

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Read more: Doctors say COVID-19 variants put pregnant women at greater risk, cite ‘urgent’ need for vaccines

High-risk obstetrician Dr. Mark Walker said the situation in Ontario is “unprecedented.”

“Pregnancy puts women at increased risk for admission to hospital and ICU and we saw that in the first wave,” Walker said. “But the variants are just making individuals much, much sicker.”

Walker said Thursday there are 13 pregnant women in intensive care units in Ontario.

“That’s more than in the history of time in Canada,” Walker added.

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In Manitoba, the situation isn’t as dire, according to the province’s vaccine task force.

Dr. Joss Reimer, task force lead, said Wednesday they’re aware of the situation in Ontario, but officials aren’t seeing any trends putting pregnant women at higher risk in Manitoba.

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“Like we do with every other risk group, we’re going to be analyzing this and are open to changing eligibility if we see something that becomes clear to benefit Manitobans,” said Reimer.

A spokesperson from Shared Health said in a statement to Global News that 398 pregnant women have tested positive for COVID-19 in Manitoba as of April 19, and one death has been reported to date.

“National and international trends show pregnant women with COVID-19 are at increased risk of hospitalization and placement in intensive care when compared to the general population,” the statement said.

“This appears to be consistent with Manitoba’s experience.”

Read more: Pfizer, BioNTech begin COVID-19 vaccine trials on pregnant women

Local data on how many pregnant women have been hospitalized or if they had any VOCs was unavailable.

Walker said the only way for Manitoba to avoid the same situation in Ontario is for Health Canada to approve a vaccine for pregnant women in all trimesters.

While Toni awaits the arrival of her baby, she doesn’t want Manitoba to wait when it comes to prioritizing pregnant women.

“I don’t know why we would take a reactive approach and wait for a bunch of pregnant women to end up in the ICU in Manitoba specifically when we know we’ve seen that evidence in other provinces,” Toni said.


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