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Why I chose to be vaccinated

Women’s Health | Wellness | February 2, 2021
Erin Baldwin
Hear the thoughts of one emergency room doctor and mom-to-be on getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

As an Emergency Department Physician, I have been taking care of COVID patients for almost a year. During this time, I and many of my colleges have worried about our own safety. This concern comes largely from our recurrent encounters with COVID positive patients but additionally from the risk we pose by going home to our families at night and potentially exposing them. For me, the vaccine becoming available has felt like the light at the end of a very long tunnel.  

Shortly before the vaccine became available, I found out I was pregnant. While this was exciting news, the thought of being a pregnant ED physician during a pandemic brought a new level of stress to the equation. I was no longer risking just my own health when caring for my COVID patients, now those encounters could possibly impact my unborn child. 

In learning about the mRNA vaccine I became much more comfortable with the idea of receiving it during pregnancy. It is true that this vaccine was not tested on pregnant women and there is no definitive data on its safety. That being said, after reading the statements and recommendations from both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) as well as the Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM), I felt confident in receiving this vaccine. Both organizations recommend that pregnant patients be offered the vaccine and that the theoretical risk of fetal harm is low. I also had a discussion with my OBGYN who then furthered my confidence when she also recommended I receive it. 

For me, receiving a vaccine like this one which has not been explicitly tested in your own population group is simply a balance of risk versus benefit. the risk of COVID infection is higher in pregnant women than their non-pregnant peers. Pregnancy is an independent risk factor for COVID disease severity with an increased risk of ICU admission, intubation and death. There is also some data to suggest an increased rate of pre-term birth among COVID positive pregnant patients.

Given my regular encounters with COVID positive patients, the risk of contracting COVID and experiencing severe disease is more likely to harm my unborn child than the low theoretical risk of this vaccine. Not to mention that as an mRNA vaccine it does not and cannot cause any genetic changes. 

In my situation, the benefit of getting the vaccine largely outweighed the risks. Receiving a vaccine that will protect myself, my family and my unborn child from this disease was the right decision for me. 

If you are still feeling unsure of receiving the COVID vaccine while pregnant, consider visiting the ACOG and SMFM websites for their full statements to further educate yourself. Also, reach out to your OBGYN to discuss your personal risk/benefit assessment for guidance more tailored to your health history.

Erin Baldwin, MD
PeaceHealth Southwest Emergency Department physician

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