Each week, OMRF President Dr. Stephen Prescott opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from OMRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Adam Cohen.
Here’s a question from a reader:
A good friend of mine is a pretty pregnant physical therapist (she’s due Feb. 23) who’s been offered a Covid-19 vaccination.
She is in a quandary and is just not finding much information to help her decide whether to get it or not. Could you advise or weigh in?
— Lea Eldridge
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
I don’t want to seem like I’m always copping out, but this is the second week in a row we’ve received a question that’s right up the alley of my Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation colleague Dr. Eliza Chakravarty. Not only is Chakravarty an immunologist (and rheumatologist and epidemiologist) at OMRF, but she specializes in pregnancy and immunology.
Here’s her response:
Lea is correct: There really isn’t a lot of information out there yet. And that’s because the clinical trials for the new vaccines didn’t include pregnant women.
Clinical trials begin by making sure a vaccine is safe for the general population. If it is, testing moves to populations that are generally considered higher risk, like pregnant women.
Those trials are planned for the Covid-19 vaccines. In the meantime, the vaccine manufacturers are monitoring people who became pregnant while participating in the clinical trials.
That said, there’s no reason to believe these particular vaccines pose a risk to pregnant women. They contain only synthetic messenger RNA, not live virus, which is the type of vaccine we normally recommend that pregnant women avoid.
The Centers for Disease Control has noted that pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness if they contract Covid-19. The CDC also indicates that infection might increase the chances of adverse pregnancy outcomes like premature births.
Although someone in her third trimester like Lea’s friend could wait a couple of months and then get vaccinated after giving birth, as a physical therapist, she’s going to be at particular risk for contracting the disease while working with patients, especially with infection levels as high as they are right now. And the fact that she’s more than seven months into the pregnancy indicates her child is quite far along in development, which lessens chances of adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Obviously, this choice is an individual one that involves a difficult risk-benefit calculation. But as a frontline health care professional, she should strongly consider getting vaccinated with her risk tier (in other words, now) if she is going to continue to treat patients.
Do you have a health query for Dr. Prescott? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!