Ask a Kauka – Hōʻola Wāhine

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ʻAhahui o Nā Kauka, the Association of Native Hawaiian Physicians, shares reliable medical information via their Ask-A-Kauka webinars. This is an excerpt taken from a special Wāhine Edition of Ask-A-Kauka that live-streamed on September 15 featuring Dr. Reni Soon and Dr. Ronnie Texeira, both of whom specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. View the complete webinar at: m.facebook.com/ahahuionakauka/

Do you recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant women?

Photo: Reni Soon

Dr. Reni Soon: “Yes. I absolutely do. I encourage people to talk to their health care providers but yes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine strongly recommend the COVID vaccine during pregnancy at any trimester.

“We are strongly recommending this because the data shows that pregnant women who get COVID are at much higher risk for complications. There are higher rates of pre-term birth, hospitalizations, and death. Around mid-July we started seeing pregnant women with COVID coming into the hospitals having a hard time breathing. Some ended up getting really, really sick. They require high amounts of oxygen and if we get to the point where we have to intubate to help her breathe, many times we need to deliver the baby at that point.

“All of the women hospitalized during pregnancy have been unvaccinated. I’ve been an OB/GYN for 20 years here in Hawai‘i. I’ve seen more pregnant women intubated and on ventilators in the last two months than I have in all the rest of my years as an OB/GYN combined.”

Photo: Ronnie Texeira

Dr. Ronnie Texeira: “I’m definitely recommending it. I got vaccinated when I was pregnant. I was 16 weeks. I’m definitely going to get my booster since I’m still breastfeeding.

“When I got my vaccine there weren’t as many studies, but just looking at the science behind it I realized there was no way it could cause a birth defect. I really wasn’t scared to take the vaccine because it isn’t a new science – the creation of vaccines – we’ve been doing this for many years. But now we actually have studies. About 35,000 women in studies have gotten a vaccine [while pregnant] and we haven’t seen any side effects.

“On the flip side – with COVID and pregnancy – we’re seeing prolonged hospitalizations, oxygen requirements, increased ICU care, ventilation support, we’re having to deliver those women pre-term. And all have been unvaccinated.

“[If you’re pregnant and sick with COVID] you’re four times more likely to require ventilation and the risk of death is 70% higher. There’s increased risk of preeclampsia, miscarriage, pre-term birth, c-sections, and blood clots because you’ll be in bed unable to move.”

Some are worried that there may be an impact on their fertility or ability to carry children in the future. What message would you have for those types of concerns?

Dr. Reni Soon: “This myth of it [the vaccine] affecting fertility started when this epidemiologist from Germany suggested that the spike protein on COVID-19 (one of the proteins on the surface of the virus) had some similarity to a placental protein and that the vaccine might then lead to binding of that protein affecting fertility somehow. But the idea of that doesn’t really make sense because if the COVID-19 spike protein could cause infertility then the COVID-19 virus itself would also be causing infertility. Of the hundreds of thousands of patients now who have gotten the vaccine there is zero evidence that the vaccine affects fertility. In my own practice I’ve had patients get pregnant immediately after getting the vaccine.”

Is it safe to get the vaccine while breastfeeding?

Dr. Ronnie Texeira: “Yes, it is. Anything safe in pregnancy is going to be safe in breastfeeding. And you’re going to have the added benefit of potentially giving your baby antibodies as well so it is highly recommended. We haven’t seen any side effects at this point. We can confidently say it looks very safe.”

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