While research indicates pregnant individuals who have COVID-19 are more likely to be admitted to hospital, the decision to get vaccinated remains a difficult one for many women in northeastern Ontario.
Convincing those who are pregnant to get vaccinated has been "especially challenging," with figures indicating less than two-thirds of them in Ontario have had their shots, said Dr. Jennifer Jocko, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Sudbury's Health Sciences North.
Jocko said that as of last week, three pregnant individuals in Sudbury had COVID-19, but were in stable condition and recovering at home.
"These women are fully vaccinated, so that would then mean that they are a breakthrough case and it's most likely the delta variant causing the infection."
Alison Cornthwaite of Sudbury found out she was pregnant in November 2020 and had her baby girl on July 11. She said she was hesitant to get vaccinated at first because she had read a lot of mixed messages.
"It changed from being the vaccine is not approved for pregnant women to almost overnight, we need pregnant women to get vaccinated," she said.
Cornthwaite said her obstetrician helped her become more comfortable with the decision to get vaccinated.
"She sort of explained how it doesn't interact with the DNA of the baby or of the pregnant mother."
Cornthwaite said she only had mild side-effects from getting vaccinated.
"I do wish that people would take faith in what their doctors say," she said. "Doctors do take an oath to do no harm, and they do have your best interests behind their decision to recommend you to be vaccinated."
Erica Hurteau of Timmins said she had a similar experience.
Also pregnant from November 2020 to July 2021, she hesitated to get the COVID-19 shot at first.
"The messaging wasn't quite clear or straightforward in terms of vaccination and pregnant people in the beginning when vaccines were sort of rolling out."
But Hurteau said she had an "amazing doctor" who helped comfort her and addressed her concerns.
"I'm not a doctor, I didn't go to medical school, I'm not a scientist, I didn't develop the vaccine, so I'm going to trust the people that did and who know more about these vaccines."
She said some of her family members were against the vaccine and weren't happy when she decided to get her shot.
"But it was my personal choice," she said.
Hurteau said her daughter was born healthy on July 17.
An uphill battle
Data from ICES (formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences) has found 60 per cent of pregnant people in Ontario are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, even though they are at a high risk of complications from the virus.
In Ontario, 85 per cent of individuals eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine are fully vaccinated.
"It's especially challenging with pregnant women," Jocko said. "Encouraging and recommending COVID 19 vaccinations to protect them, as well as their babies, in the environment of misinformation on social media, which unfortunately tends to sometimes play more of a role in decision-making."
More vulnerable to COVID-19
Data from the Canadian Surveillance of COVID-19 in Pregnancy team (CANCOVID) showed pregnant individuals are nearly five times more likely to be admitted to hospital for COVID-19 than those who aren't pregnant — and 10 times more likely to be admitted to an intensive-care unit.
Kim Cloutier Holtz, a midwife in New Liskeard and a board member with the Association of Ontario Midwives, said she is concerned that many pregnant individuals aren't getting vaccinated.
"As far as we know, there are only positive effects on the unborn baby, and they will acquire some of the immunity passed on from the vaccine since it does pass the placental barrier," she said about the vaccines.
Cloutier Holtz said those who are pregnant are more vulnerable to the virus because their immune systems have lower defences, which makes them more likely to develop complications from COVID-19.
She said she understands why some who are pregnant might be hesitant to get vaccinated, especially with the strong influence of social media, but added they should do so to protect themselves and their baby.