Don’t deny vaccine to pregnant, breastfeeding women

Dr Abigail Rembui Jerip

KUCHING: Pregnant and breastfeeding women must be allowed to get the Covid-19 vaccine if they want to, said Sarawak General Hospital Obstetrics and Gynaecology registrar Dr Abigail Rembui Jerip.

 “I think pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should be allowed to be vaccinated. The move by the Ministry of Health (MoH) further fuels unnecessary and baseless fear regarding the vaccination,” she told New Sarawak Tribune today.

Speaking on behalf of many mothers working on the frontlines, she said a mother could opt to defer, but if she wanted to be vaccinated and it was denied, this would become  a rights issue.

“We cannot be disregarded by policymakers. Also, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) believe  that it is unethical to deny pregnant women  the vaccine,” she said.

The Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Obstetrics and Gynaecology trainee lecturer argued that the Covid-19 vaccine was a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, which had been proven safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, especially at-risk frontliners.

“Plus, many pregnant and breastfeeding frontliners are willing to take the vaccine as it is. After all, it is an mRNA vaccine and not a live virus vaccine. Furthermore, are we not especially at risk?” she asked.

Dr Abigail, who is also a breastfeeding advocate, added, “The evidence to vaccinate pregnant and breastfeeding mothers is compelling. Why should we be denied protection from a virus that has claimed countless lives and brought the world to its knees?

“How can my chance and my choice at protection be ripped away? A protection I can passively give to my baby. A protection my friends can passively give to their unborn babies,” she said.

She stressed that policymakers needed to stop limiting and infringing a woman’s right to make decisions for her health, her body and her babies both born and unborn.

“The data about vaccination is there, we can read it, retain it, weigh it and decide accordingly. They do not get to decide for us. This is a human rights issue, a woman’s right to an equitable health issue.

“We deserve the right to decide whether to be in phase one of the vaccine programme or defer our vaccination until phase three. Our bodies, our choices, they are our rights,” she said.

On the possible side effects on pregnant and breastfeeding mothers after the Covid-19 jabs, Dr Abigail said they would be the same as the vaccinations for Tetanus, Influenza and Pertussis.

“There are common side effects from the vaccine such as sore on the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, fever, chills or joint pain. And they do not affect pregnancies,” she said.

Dr Abigail said she was vaccinated during her pregnancy for Influenza and Pertussis.

On Feb 23, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba in a statement said that pregnant women including nursing mothers would not be given the Covid-19 jab based on a resolution of the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee.