Diseases that were virtually gone are making a come-back and there are growing gaps between people’s perceptions and the medical reality about the safety of vaccines, says the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC). The issue can be particularly acute and sensitive for pregnant women. So, at their annual conference today the doctors have dedicated an entire session to addressing this topic.
‘Vaccination does save lives’
“To be absolutely clear, the science is in,” says Dr. Jennifer Blake, CEO of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.”Vaccination does save lives and does improve quality of life. And it is a mystery to me why doubt would have been sown so harmfully about something that has done so much good.”
Pregnant women can confer immunity to fetus
Recent research has found that a mother’s immunity to pertussis, also called whooping cough, is passed on to her baby. So if the mother has had pertussis or been vaccinated against it, the infant is protected at the very vulnerable early stages of life before its own immune system has developed or it has been immunized.
A single vaccine protecting against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis can be given to pregnant women between weeks 21 and 32 unless they have medical conditions preventing it.
Some vaccines are better for women to get before they get pregnant. Rubella, or German measles, can cause deafness or other abnormalities in a fetus. If a woman has not had the disease herself and become immune, it would be important for her to be vaccinated before conceiving.
Other diseases like influenza can be hard on a pregnant woman, whose own lungs may be compressed by the fetus. So, vaccination is recommended to protect her health.
Dr. Jennifer Blake says doctors must help pregnant women understand the importance of immunization.Listen
Vaccines recommended in pregnancy have been very carefully tested, says doctor
Some vaccines are not safe to administer during pregnancy. Others are. But Blake says there has been rigorous scientific research on this and women can consult their health care providers for information.
“(The) best advice is to maintain your vaccination status up to date and there are easy ways to do that. There are apps that help us keep track of our vaccination. There are those…booklets that we all get given when we have our vaccines. If you keep them up to date then you are always in good shape.” she says.
“Second…don’t be afraid of being vaccinated when you’re pregnant. The vaccines that are recommended in pregnancy have been very carefully tested…They are really important for your health and for your baby’s health.”
At today’s conference, health care providers discussed the causes of vaccine hesitancy and strategies to address patients’ concerns.
The World Health Organization has named vaccine hesitancy one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019.