As pregnant people in Ontario moved up in the province’s priority vaccination list Friday, their counterparts in B.C. still have to wait their turn in the age-based roll-out.
All pregnant Ontarians were moved into the “highest risk” category, which is being vaccinated right now, on April 23. But on the West Coast, expectant British Columbians are only prioritized if they also have a serious heart condition – congenital or acquired – that requires them to see a cardiac specialist during their pregnancy. These individuals are eligible for a vaccine under B.C.’s clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) category.
This means pregnant parents without a heart condition, have to wait their turn in the jab roll-out.
As of April 23, all pregnant individuals can register for #COVID19 vaccination appointments under the “highest risk” health conditions in Phase Two of the province’s vaccine rollout. pic.twitter.com/hS6jL4E84y— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) April 23, 2021
B.C.’s Ministry of Health encourages pregnant people to get protected with the vaccine once they’re eligible, a spokesperson told Black Press Media Friday.
“Our immunization program is targeted to immunize those who are at the highest risk of COVID-19,” said the ministry’s Marielle Tounsi, in a statement. She added that the province’s vaccination focus is on the age-based program, offering AstraZeneca to people 40 and over in pharmacies, CEV groups and outbreak management.
The ministry said vaccine deployment decisions are based on the best available science and evidence, and that they’ll “start to add additional priority groups” as they get more vaccines.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says pregnant people are three times more likely than the general population to end up in the intensive care unit if they’re infected with COVID-19.
Sarka Lisonkova, a perinatal epidemiologist, said those pregnant ICU patients with COVID-19 can require a high level of care, including machine breathing support, and are at higher risk of dying if that happens.
“Although the actual risk of severe illness and death among pregnant women is very low, it is higher when compared to non-pregnant women from the same age group,” she told Black Press Media.
Pregnant people who are hesitant to get vaccinated could be putting themselves at risk. Lisonkova, a University of B.C. associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, said contracting COVID-19 while pregnant can increase the risk of premature births, especially for those with severe illness.
The BCCDC says getting a COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant causes no known increased risk of miscarriages or birth defects. Lisonkova agreed, saying although the clinical trials for Canada’s approved vaccines didn’t focus on pregnant women, there’s no evidence of harm to them or their babies.
“Adverse events among pregnant women are also monitored in Canada and there has been no reason for concern so far,” Lisonkova said.
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