Pregnant women face dilemma over COVID-19 vaccinations

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By Bahk Eun-ji

Concerns among pregnant women are growing as they are not included as eligible for the government's vaccine pass exemption.

The Central Disease Control Headquarters said Wednesday that pregnant women are not recognized as being exempt from the vaccine pass system because they are in the high-risk group for COVID-19 and are therefore strongly recommended to get vaccinated.

According the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) review of several studies, vaccines that are based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology ― such as Pfizer and Moderna ― do not cause complications in pregnant women and fetuses, but pregnant women in Korea are still expressing anxiety over vaccinations.

The EMA explained that the review based on studies of about 65,000 pregnant women at each stage found no signs of a higher risk of serious side effects or complications such as miscarriage or premature birth to be caused by the mRNA vaccines. The EMA acknowledged several limitations to the data, but emphasized that the results across the studies were consistent.

"The benefits of mRNA COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy are greater than the possible risks for pregnant women and fetuses," the agency said.

However, pregnant women said they are not completely reassured about the stated lack of side effects because many of them delayed their vaccinations under recommendation from their doctors.

A 32-year-old woman, who is 25 weeks pregnant and who wished to be identified only by her surname Park, said she became pregnant while she was waiting for the vaccination.

"I haven't been able to go anywhere where the vaccine pass system has been implemented, so I've been staying mostly at home."

Another 38-year-old woman, who is 12 weeks pregnant, also said, "Mine is an advanced maternal age pregnancy, so I can't decide easily whether I should receive the COVID-19 vaccine."

"I went to the public health center to register as a person exempt from the vaccine pass system, but the employee of the center told me that I'm not eligible," she said.

According to the government's guideline, if a person cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons, he or she can get a confirmation of exemption to the vaccine pass at a public health center with a doctor's declaration.

However, health authorities recommended pregnant women to receive vaccines for their own safety and that of their fetus.

Experts say that women before the 12th week of pregnancy should be included in the category eligible for vaccine pass exemption.

"Expectant mothers receive the COVID-19 vaccine at risk to themselves and their (unborn) child, so they should be allowed to choose whether to receive the vaccine without being pressured," said Chung Ki-suk, professor of Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital.

As of Dec. 9, there were 2,087 pregnant women who have received a first dose of the vaccine and 1,175 pregnant women who have been administered a second dose.

Bahk Eun-ji

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