Pregnant women reluctant to get vaccinated despite being at high Covid risk

AMSTERDAM - Pregnant women in the Netherlands are reluctant to get vaccinated against Covid-19, even though they are 2.5 times more likely than others to get seriously ill from the respiratory disease and end up needing intensive care, obstetricians and gynecologists said to Nieuwsuur. Conflicting information from the government about the risks of vaccination played a big role in this reluctance.

"It's very confusing," obstetrician Margot van Dijk said to the program. "One moment pregnant women receive a letter with 'you must do it' and elsewhere they receive a flyer with 'you must not do it'. That is very variable."

Vaccination was initially not recommended for pregnant women because there were no pregnant women in the first study groups. Scientists now say that it is safe for pregnant women to get vaccinated. Pregnant women in the Netherlands are now allowed to be vaccinate with mRNA vaccines. But the invitation letters from health service GGD until recently stated that they still had to wait, according to Nieuwsuur. And there have been cases of pregnant women being turned away at vaccination sites.

"It takes a while before all communication is unambiguous. That naturally feeds the anti-vaccination sentiment," Liesbeth van Leeuwen of the Dutch Gynecology Association said to the program. The association does not have firm figures on how many pregnant women are vaccinated, but believes it is less than half.

Pregnant women are not at higher risk of catching the coronavirus, but they are more likely to experience complications and end up in ICU if they do get it. "As a pregnant woman you have the same risk as someone who is ten years older and who is overweight," Van Leeuwen said. The latest Covid-19 figures show that 620 pregnant women in the Netherlands have been hospitalized with the respiratory disease. 50 of them were in medium care and 50 in intensive care.

But many women are scared to get vaccinated. There are many discussions online about miscarriage and infertility. According to Van Leeuwen, there is enough scientific knowledge to allay concerns about this. "The corona vaccine has no consequences for the fertility of men or women. We do not see more miscarriages among vaccinated people."

Van Leeuwen therefore urged all pregnant women to get vaccinated. "If you get corona at the end of your pregnancy, you run the risk of serious complications because you already have such a big belly and your diaphragm is already so high. Your immune system is less good and the residual capacity of your lungs is smaller." 

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