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Leona O'Neill: Mothers-to-be need to ignore anti-vaxxer misinformation and get vaccinated

While doctors are recommending that pregnant women be vaccinated against Covid as they are at a higher risk of serious illness, some mothers-to-be are still having doubts – and those spreading misinformation are not helping matters, as Leona O'Neill points out...

Pregnant women are being urged to attend drop-in clinics for vaccination to protect themselves and their babies
Leona O'Neill

BEING pregnant in the midst of a global pandemic must be a hugely stressful time. It's pressure enough trying to stay healthy and well while carrying a baby, but having a virus that could impact on you and your child, potentially more so than others around you, must be extremely worrying.

There is no doubt the virus is impacting pregnant women in a serious way. Between January 1 and July 23 this year, the Belfast Trust recorded 39 Covid-positive patients in maternity. The vast majority of pregnant women who ended up in hospital were unvaccinated.

Covid poses a higher risk of serious illness in pregnant women, heightens the risk of complications in pregnancy and also the chances of a premature birth. With the Delta variant ripping through Northern Ireland at present, causing cases to surge in all our communities, pregnant women are at more risk of infection and are being urged to attend drop-in clinics for vaccination to protect themselves and their babies.

A lot of pregnant women cut out alcohol, caffeine and other substances so as not to harm their baby, they eat healthily and go out of their way to avoid anything that could damage the little human they are nurturing. So it's only natural that they will have great concerns about a new vaccine.

At the weekend, a group of anti-vaxxers stormed into the vaccine pregnancy pop-up clinic at the Foyle Arena. According to those present, they shouted through a megaphone that those gathered to get their vaccine were "murderers" and were "crazy" and handed out misinformation leaflets before being escorted out by weary health staff and members of the public.

They left many of the already stressed pregnant women queuing for their vaccine in tears and scared many of the health workers. One pregnant woman told me she thought it was a terror attack and hasn't been able to sleep since.

This type of stunt is dangerous, harmful to those present and certainly not helpful. It's important that our pregnant population have the facts so that they can make an informed decision.

The vaccine roll-out in pregnant women has been ongoing in the USA for many weeks. Some 130,000 pregnant women were vaccinated with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – the vaccines offered here in Northern Ireland – and there were no safety concerns raised.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended the vaccine for pregnant women in the UK. Almost 52,000 pregnant women in England have now been vaccinated – similarly, with no safety concerns reported.

Data published by NHS England and the University of Oxford recently stated that no double-vaccinated pregnant women were admitted to hospital in England, and only three were admitted after having their first dose.

Those are proven facts. What was printed on the leaflets given to those tearful pregnant women by the anti-vaxxers with the megaphones could be dis-proven by simply conducting a two-minute search on Google.

These are terribly trying times for everyone. We all must do our best to stay well, take responsibility for our own health and take measures to keep ourselves out of the hospital.

Vaccines have been given to pregnant women in the past to protect them and their children from illnesses such as whooping cough and flu. This is no different. Our medical people know best.

I would encourage anyone who is pregnant and able to get vaccinated to do so. I know I would if I was in that position. If you are concerned about taking the vaccine, seek reassurance from the professionals. Contact your GP or your midwife. The Northern Trust also have a dedicated pregnancy helpline, you can contact them on 028 9442 4859.

You can book on the HSC website at covid-19.hscni.net/guidance/book-my-vaccinations or check in with your Trust's Facebook page for pop-up pregnancy clinics.

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