Examining Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy in pregnant women

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By Awa Macalo

Amid a surge of conspiracies about the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine, hesitancy among pregnant women in the Gambia is showing no signs of dwindling.  

“I cannot risk being vaccinated, not with my conditions. I cannot go and take the vaccination when I don’t know the implications it will have on my unborn baby’s life. I cannot take that risk,” an eight months pregnant Mariam Manneh explained.  

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Mariam is 34 years old. This is her first pregnancy since she got married over eight years ago.

During the epic of the pandemic, so many people were stranded home, with numerous lockdowns by state authorities to curb the rapid spread of the virus.

Mariam is doing all sorts of measures to prevent herself and her baby from any form of illness as well as the Covid-19 but she did not trust the vaccines.

“My husband and I have suffered a lot in the hands of the community and relatives, I don’t know how secure the vaccines are, I don’t care either because I do not trust it. I cannot be the cause of my baby’s death,” she explained.  

“I am nine months gone with my pregnancy, I have not taken any Covid19 vaccines. I have not taken the Covid19 jab yet and intend not to take it because I don’t believe the efficacy of the jab. The world has been and continues to battle with existing viruses and yet no vaccine is discovered. What could have prompted emergence of a vaccine for Covid19 is what baffles me. I have decided not to take any of the vaccine way before conceiving,” said Fatoumatta Tunkara.

Like Mariam, and Fatoumatta, many expecting mothers do not want to risk the lives of their unborn babies through Covid19 vaccine. However, the resistance of these women to take vaccines is based on their own ideologies which is not scientifically proven by any health professional and a mere misinformation.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, the Covid19 vaccine is recommended for all people. This includes people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in future. The vaccination during pregnancy is safe and effective. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines including the Covid19 vaccines can cause fertility problem to both women and men.

Gibril Gando Baldeh, health communication officer at the directorate of health promotions and education under the Ministry of Health, said as far as the covid19 vaccination is concerned, the ministry’s statistic has generally shown that among five hundred thousand vaccinated candidates, the number of women who took the vaccines has outnumbered that of men. But when it comes to women of child bearing age, it has decreased.

“We assumed that it is related to rumurs spread well before the vaccination started in the country but such are dying now because we have witnessed women who have taken the vaccines whilst pregnant and healthily gave birth to their babies. Women should understand that the Covid19 vaccination is here to boost their immune system and prevent them from other complications due to pregnancy and as we all know, pregnant women are regarded as a vulnerable group because of their low immunity during this period.

There is zero risk of the vaccine to affect a pregnant woman and her unborn child. There is an extensive study on this area, and WHO has recommended pregnant women to receive covid19 vaccines because there’s no risk, will increase their survival and limit the chances of contracting the virus,” he said.