Why are vaccination rates so low?

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What is happening

Of all the groups with low immunization rates in the United States, one of the most worrying for public health officials is pregnant women. While nearly 75 percent of adults in the United States have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, only about 24 percent received one during their pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .

This low rate comes despite growing evidence that pregnant women face a higher risk of serious COVID-19 infections than the general population. “It is very clear that there are very serious adverse outcomes for mother and baby during COVID-19 infection,” Dr Anthony Fauci said last month.

Doctors across the country are reporting unprecedented numbers of pregnant women in intensive care units in recent months. COVID-19 infections also increase the likelihood of preterm labor, according to the CDC, and may be linked to other negative pregnancy outcomes.

All the evidence suggests that vaccines are safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, despite widespread online conspiracy theories falsely linking vaccines to infertility and miscarriages. In fact, studies have shown that babies can receive antibodies to the vaccine in utero or through breast milk.

Why there is debate

Considering the benefits of vaccination and the high risk of infection, why are so few pregnant women getting vaccinated? While factors that contribute to vaccine resistance in the general population are certainly part of the answer, experts believe there are several reasons specific to pregnancy that make the problem worse.

One of the main reasons, according to many experts, is the lack of clarity from public health authorities on the safety of vaccines during pregnancy. It is standard practice for clinical trials of vaccines and pharmaceuticals not to include pregnant women due to the risk of unknown side effects. But in the case of COVID vaccines, this omission meant doctors until recently did not have a solid body of scientific data on vaccine safety during pregnancy. The CDC only officially recommended vaccines for pregnant women last month, and the World Health Organization still recommends them only under certain circumstances.

This lack of clear information from health officials has allowed false claims about vaccine safety risks to take hold, according to disinformation experts. These conspiracy theories, they claim, are especially powerful because of the understandable concern pregnant women have for the health of children – a concern many say is exacerbated by how our healthcare system has made pregnant women vulnerable though. before the onset of the pandemic.

Viewpoints

Conspiracy theories filled information void created by health officials

“Without the clear endorsement of the medical community and the anti-vaccine lies surpassing the mommyverse via Instagram, Reddit and Facebook, thousands of expectant parents have decided to wait – either until they give birth or until they give birth. until they reach the third trimester. ” – Sonja Sharp, Los Angeles Times

Vaccines are just another example of how our healthcare system is failing women

Tackling concerns about vaccines and fertility will require not only debunking the misinformation involved, but also tackling the ways the medical system has failed American women – and allowed an amorphous culture of wellbeing to develop. melt and fill the void. ” – Anna North, Vox

Well-intentioned safety concerns during trials left pregnant women vulnerable

“When new vaccines are in development, manufacturers routinely test them on healthy adults first and then move to more vulnerable demographic groups. Pregnant and breastfeeding people and children are usually the last on the list. It was born out of a desire to protect, but it often ends up creating an enigma. If pregnant women were not included in clinical trials, how would they know if it is safe to get the vaccine? – Helen Branswell, STAT

Until recently, there were no clear guidelines from health authorities

“For many pregnant people, the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine has been a heavy one. Clinical trials do not include pregnant women for ethical reasons, so there was initially no data from us regarding vaccines. But we were still eligible for the shot. – Kelly Lawler, USA Today

Vaccine developers made a major mistake by being overly cautious in clinical trials

“What a lot of people forget is that there are risks in doing nothing. Not offering pregnant women the opportunity to be vaccinated and to protect themselves, where there are known and severe risks of Covid amplified by pregnancy, is not a wise strategy. – Denise Jamieson, obstetrician, to the New York Times

The worries that cross everyone’s mind are exacerbated for pregnant women

“It was this proven faith in the nature of older and more familiar vaccines that made me nervous about taking the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy. What if there were unforeseen effects down the line? What if, for example, I got the vaccine and our daughter developed birth defects as a result? My brain started to speed up in irrational directions, despite the data showing no increased risk of birth defects from the vaccine. “- Charlotte Alter, Temps

The increased risks of infection have not been adequately explained

“Healthcare systems also need to provide unvarnished evidence demonstrating the risk of serious complications and potential outcomes in a way that resonates with their patients. This conversation must include a reminder that the recent wave of COVID-19 is affecting young, healthy pregnant women with no underlying disease or risk factors. »- Mark Simon, La Colline

Doctors need to be honest about the real uncertainty that exists with vaccines

“We need to meet our patients where they are and be clear about why we can talk about vaccines so confidently. No, doctors can’t say for sure that there will never be long-term consequences from a coronavirus vaccine, but we can point out that there is no scientific reason to fear them either. , given our decades of experience with a myriad of other vaccinations. – Leana S. Wen, Washington Post

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Photographic illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images

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