Thursday January 6, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC [Update January 11, 2022: Dr Henry says pregnant women who are close to their 6-month interval can phone 1-833-838-2323 to get a booster appointment. There will be some flexibility as to appointment date, which is not possible in the online system.]
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends
In recent days there has been some momentum in social media as to whether COVID booster shots can be brought forward (done earlier) for women who are pregnant.
On the last day of 2021, Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry said that BC Health was prioritizing pregnant women for COVID vaccination, including boosters.
Presently the six-month interval between second and third doses for anyone age 12+ (a recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization) has been adhered to in BC, other than, perhaps for people who are over age 70 years or have compromised immune systems or are otherwise clinically vulnerable.
Understandably, caution is the top priority for using a relativity new vaccine product in pregnant women. People in BC are probably appreciative of that prudent approach.
Back in May 2021, BC Health had already published a statement about the COVID vaccine being safe for pregnant women age 16+.
“We have reviewed the data here in BC and this shows pregnant people experience severe illness from COVID-19 at a rate that is similar to people who are in their 50s,” said Dr Henry last year. “By prioritizing pregnant people today, we add another layer of protection for them, their babies and their communities.”
Flexibility for pregnant women?
However, given the Omicron variant that is fast-becoming prevalent in BC, Island Social Trends has asked the Health Ministry as to any flexibility being available on the six-month interval for pregnant women, especially given the placental transfer of immune protection from mother to fetus.
That would help a newborn have some added protection in at least the first few weeks or months of life.
If a woman is in her third trimester but is behind with her COVID vaccinations, will BC Health make exceptions be made to fast-track a woman’s immunization?
Response from the Ministry of Health:
The response from the Ministry of Health today sticks to the six-month interval but also says women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can phone for a priority booking (not wait until they’ve reached the six-month point).
“Currently, individuals 18 years or older six months past their second dose including those who are pregnant are eligible for a booster dose. This is in line with recommendations by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. COVID-19 vaccination is strongly recommended for all people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.”
“People in these situations can call our vaccine line at 1-833-838-2323 and self-identify their condition to get a priority booking.”
COVID in pregnancy:
The BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) last updated their recommendations on October 28, 2021 for antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Pregnant women and individuals who are not working in essential services or health care should socially isolate like all members of the community.
- Women and individuals who are in essential services including healthcare workers can continue to work if asymptomatic and not a recent COVID-19 contact. They should use PPE precautions as appropriate for their work environment.
- Any pregnant woman or pregnant individual who develops an influenza-like illness should be evaluated, by phone consult if needed, to determine the severity of their symptoms and if hospitalization is appropriate.
- If an individual develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they should be tested in accordance with the current testing criteria.
- If an individual develops COVID-19 at any time in pregnancy, they need evaluation and enhanced fetal surveillance (see SOGC guidelines).
- For people with COVID-19 in pregnancy, serial growth ultrasounds starting after 24 weeks and outside of the infectious window, should be arranged every four weeks. A hospital birth and continuous monitoring in labour is recommended. The placenta should be sent to pathology for evaluation and current guidelines recommend testing the neonate within one hour of delivery.
- The Reproductive Infectious Diseases Service at BC Women’s Hospital is available for phone consultation for health care providers of pregnant women with documented or suspected COVID-19 in pregnancy (604-875-2161).
===== LINKS (government):
COVID vaccine priority for pregnant people in BC (May 4, 2021)
Pregnant women prioritized for COVID booster (December 31, 2021)