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Concerns over COVID infection growing among pregnant women

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Citizens wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at a temporary test site in front of Seoul City Hall, Thursday. Yonhap
Citizens wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at a temporary test site in front of Seoul City Hall, Thursday. Yonhap

By Bahk Eun-ji

Concerns are growing among pregnant woman nationwide over whether to receive COVID-19 vaccine or not following the death of a fetus which is presumed to be due to possible infection from the coronavirus transmitted by the mother.

According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), the mother, who had not been vaccinated, tested positive Nov. 18, and delivered a stillborn baby four days later, which also tested positive for the virus.

"It is unclear whether it was through vertical transmission or contamination by body fluids," said Park Young-joon, head of the epidemiological investigation team at the Central Disease Control Headquarters. "It is not easy to figure out how much influence coronavirus had in the stillbirth. Relevant data and experts' opinion are required (to decide on the influence), but it is a very rare case and we wonder there are sufficient data to make a conclusion."

The news has made many pregnant women at a loss, as a majority of them have hesitated to get vaccinated mainly due to possible side effects.

Gettyimagesbank
Gettyimagesbank
According to the KDCA, 1,729 pregnant women here have received the first dose of a vaccine against COVID-19, and 613 have had their second ones. The number of pregnant women is estimated at around 136,000 based on National Health Insurance Service data.

A person wrote on an online community of pregnant women and parents, Thursday, she initially decided not to get vaccinated, but she is wondering again after hearing the news about the fetus infection.

"I'm 29 weeks pregnant now. When I found out I was pregnant, I decided not to get a COVID-19 vaccine because I didn't think there was enough data on possible side effects for pregnant women yet, but now I feel like I'm lost again," she wrote.

Another user, who said she was 17 week pregnant, also wrote that it has become a more difficult call for her.

"A couple of weeks ago, I had decided not to get a vaccine after consulting with my doctor although she recommended receiving one. I was worried because no one knows yet how the vaccine will affect the fetus. It is a double whammy due to overlapping concerns about side effects after vaccination and concerns about losing my baby due to COVID-19," the user wrote.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of stillbirth for pregnant women infected with the coronavirus is twice that of women who do not have the virus. In particular, the Delta mutation quadruples the risk.

Infectious disease experts reiterate the importance of vaccination.

"Pregnant women infected with COVID-19 have an increased risk of premature birth and stillbirth, and that's why they need to get the vaccine," said Kim Woo-joo, a professor of infectious medicine at Korea University Guro Hospital.

"As the number of daily new cases is increasing, more such cases could occur," Kim said.


Bahk Eun-ji ejb@koreatimes.co.kr


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