Pregnant, unvaccinated people urged to get COVID shots as B.C. ICU cases rise

“It was the best bet for myself and my baby to stay healthy during this pandemic.” Pregnant, unvaccinated people are being urged to get immunized as B.C. COVID-19 ICU cases rise. Ashley Burr reports.

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Some health care facilities are filling up with unvaccinated British Columbians, including several unimmunized, young, pregnant people now in ICU.

B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, says, “COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate,” as pregnant people make up part of the steady rise in ICU cases the province is seeing.

“We have seen this happen particularly since May when we started to see [the] Delta [variant] transmitting more easily, and we’ve seen the tragic outcomes of that across the province,” Henry said.

Over the course of the pandemic, Henry says 40 people who’ve been pregnant have been in ICU, “and a good proportion of those have been in the last few months.”

So, she’s begging people to get vaccinated against the virus, especially pregnant people, breastfeeding people, or those planning to get pregnant.

“We know that this is a particular concern. What we want to do is we want to take as much care as possible when we’re pregnant, and I know there’s a lot of questions that people have,” she said. “While it is true that the clinical trials did not include pregnant people. We also know a lot more about these vaccines and how safe and how they work in people who are pregnant and breastfeeding people over the last year, where 10s of 1,000s of pregnant and breastfeeding people have been immunized.”

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Starting Oct. 12, nearly 50,000 long-term and acute care workers will have to be fully vaccinated to enter their place of work.​

If they do not get their shot, Henry said they will be placed on unpaid leave.

Since the announcement, concerns over the BC Nurses Union’s (BCNU) position on a new vaccine mandate for health care workers rose.

Aman Grewal, BCNU vice president, told NEWS 1130 the union will fight the mandate because some nurses still have concerns about the effects of vaccines on pregnancy.

However, Henry says this pushback is a legitimate concern “we are absolutely addressing.”

“Part of that stain [health-care workers face] is health-care workers who are not yet vaccinated becoming ill themselves or having to be off because they’ve been exposed to somebody who’s ill, and as of last week we had over 100 health-care workers who were in isolation, ill with COVID or because they’ve been exposed and weren’t yet vaccinated. So, it is a strain, having this much transmission in our communities and we as health-care workers being at risk as well.”

Henry says the mandate to get as many people as possible vaccinated is also about workplace safety.

On Tuesday, she reported at least 100 people are isolating because they may have been exposed to COVID-19 work in health.

NEWS 1130 has asked staff with the Ministry of Health to clarify how many workers across the province have not been vaccinated, but detailed numbers have not yet been shared.

Henry is suggesting overall vaccination rates in health care are in the “high 90s.”

Minster of Health, Adrian Dix, says they fall in line with the nearly 87 per cent of all eligible people in BC who have received at least one dose of vaccine.

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Henry admits misinformation about vaccines may be what’s keeping some health workers from booking an appointment to get their first dose. So, the top doctor is also encouraging people to find more information and data about vaccines by visiting the BC Centre for Disease Control website and assures people vaccines are recommended by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, and similar groups around the world.

“All of the vaccines that are approved for use in Canada are not only safe, but recommended for people who are pregnant, people who are thinking of getting pregnant, and people who are breastfeeding.”

During the Tuesday press conference, Henry pointed to national research on COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy being lead by one of B.C.’s leading experts, Dr. Deborah Money.

“It has shown, there is no increased risk of complications after being immunized to you or to your baby. There are no differences in miscarriage, preterm birth, stillbirth or birth defects — and international data supports this as well,” Henry says, but adds, “We do know that there is an increased risk of severe illness requiring hospitalization or ICU care if you get COVID-19 when you’re pregnant.”

Throughout the pandemic, Henry has been critical of anyone deliberately posting harmful lies online.

“Particularly on social media there’s been very pointed disinformation, intentionally misleading information by certain groups of people to incite fear about the vaccines and we see that in some communities across the province.  I can say, unequivocally, these vaccines do not affect fertility in women or in boys, in young men, but that is one of the common lies that is out there right now –to create fear.”

Henry stresses work continues to educate all health workers who have little more than a month left to get vaccinated.

– With files from Claire Fenton

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