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Dr. Bonnie Henry urges pregnant women to get vaccinated

The message follows the news that a number of young women who are pregnant are in intensive care.

B.C.'s top doctor says coronavirus vaccines are safe and recommended for women who are planning to get pregnant, who are pregnant, or who are breastfeeding.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters in a press conference on Tuesday (Sept. 21) that "COVID-19 doesn't discriminate" and that the majority of people who become ill are unvaccinated. 

A number of young women who are pregnant are currently in intensive care in B.C., she added.

"We have seen this happen particularly since we started to see [the] Delta [variant] transmitting more easily; we've seen the tragic outcomes of that across the province," Henry said.

While she encourages everyone to get vaccinated, she underscored that women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to get pregnant must get vaccinated to prevent serious illness. 

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) states that there is currently no known specific serious risk (such as an increased risk of miscarriage or possible birth defect) of getting a COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding (or providing expressed human milk) to either the person being vaccinated or the child. 

"It's been recommended by the Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology Obstetricians and Gynecology here in Canada [and] by our National Advisory Committee on Immunization and by similar groups around the world," said Henry. 

The health officer noted pregnant women who are unvaccinated risk ending up in hospital, and worse, in ICU.

"Canadian data, including the 1,500 pregnant people here in British Columbia, and international data, showed significantly worse levels of severe disease, especially now with the Delta variant that we're seeing, and higher rates of adverse infant outcomes — things like stillbirths and pre-term births — babies being born early.

"In fact, knowing this, here in B.C., and across Canada, we prioritize people who are pregnant for early access to vaccines, knowing that this risk can be averted by protecting people through immunizations."

While it is preferable for women to be vaccinated before they get pregnant because it will prevent serious illness from COVID-19, getting vaccinated at any stage of pregnancy is safe. 

The vaccine helps your body produce antibodies that will protect you from getting sick if you are exposed to COVID-19, according to the BCCDC. These protective antibodies pass into a woman's milk and may also protect the child from infection.

For more information on pregnancy and COVID-19, please visit the BCCDC website