Weeks before five-months-pregnant Elizabeth Espinal rolled up her sleeve to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the neurosurgery researcher discussed her confidence in the shot with her husband, Santos, a chef.
“He had some reservations that are common for people who are not in the medical field,” the Queens-based mom-to-be told The Post. “But I wanted him to be comfortable with the decision as well, because we’re in this together.”
Until they definitively made up their minds, the Espinals were among the ever-increasing number of expectant parents having to wrestle with the pros and cons as the vaccine rollout continues — especially since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have yet to make any direct recommendations as to whether or not pregnant women should get innoculated.
Northwell Health employee Espinal, 36, added: “We put a lot of thought into it, and crowd-sourced opinions from my OB-GYN and the doctors with whom I closely work.
“I look at things very scientifically, weighing the risks such as contracting COVID-19 and the documented cases of pre-term birth [the disease has caused]. All roads pointed toward getting the shot, as there are no real risks associated with [pregnant women receiving] it, aside from [the side effects that would impact] anybody who took the vaccine,” she said.
So far, the CDC has only said that the vaccine is “unlikely to pose a risk for pregnant people” and that those “who are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the coronavirus vaccine, such as health-care personnel, may choose to be vaccinated.”
The centers’ stance has been adopted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Both organizations recommend patients consult with their health-care provider about the risks and benefits of the vaccine.
SMFM spokesperson Dr. Jacqueline Parchem, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist who will give birth to her third child in February, recently used Twitter to powerfully express her personal take on the matter.
The 38-year-old shared a photo of herself being injected at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, the hospital where she works in Houston. Another picture shows the OB-GYN holding a fill-in-the-blank sticker — “I got the vaccine for: all pregnant ppl!,” she wrote in.
She told The Post her social media campaign had three intended purposes: to explain in layman’s terms the science behind the vaccine, to offer reassurances on its safety and to show how she leads by example.
“We’re in a very difficult time when it’s hard to distinguish the good information from the bad and where the credible sources are,” said Parchem. “Physicians are now coming forward with unequivocal public health messaging to address vaccine hesitancy.”
Uniformed anti-vaxxers have trolled Parchem for her position on-line, but she takes the attacks in her stride: “[Their] comments come from a place of fear because there’s no scientific basis,” she said. “I have not had a negative comment from anybody who has been able to articulate to me their actual concern.”
In her tweets, the expert notes it is “tough to find any other medical intervention that works THIS well,” adding: “Unfortunately I know the risks of COVID in pregnancy and have seen too many pregnant patients with severe disease.”
She said she was frustrated by the lack of evidential research regarding pregnant women and the vaccine due to the group’s customary exclusion from these types of trials. However, no female participants who happened to conceive during the testing — nor the babies they subsequently delivered — have shown negative outcomes so far.
“Nonetheless, there is a proven increased risk of serious illness [due to COVID] among pregnant people, leading to more need for ICU care, mechanical ventilation and potentially death,” Parchem said. “If the pregnant person becomes ill or dies, the fetus will not do well.
“It’s an uncomfortable thought to have but, as one of my [medical peers] spelled out: ‘Death crosses the placenta.’
“When you put all that together, you need to get vaccinated.”
Manhattan resident Elaina Preston, an 11-weeks-pregnant physician assistant who works with highly immunocompromised patients, was swift to heed such advice.
She received her second dose on Jan. 7 after examining the vaccine studies and consulting her reproductive medicine physician, OB-GYN and knowledgeable colleagues.
“I was relieved I was eligible, especially because I have moderate persistent asthma,” said Preston, 38, the mom of a 1-year-old. “Now I have more confidence about working in a hospital setting knowing that the majority of my co-workers will also be vaccinated.”
Recalling the moment she received her first dose, on Dec. 18, the medical professional admitted to a “mild sense of anxiety about being one of the earlier pregnant people to get vaccinated.”
But, with a master’s of public health and background in clinical research, she trusts the the data.
“I am so happy that, after all of the terrible things that have happened in 2020, I am taking a step that moves us forward into a better future.”
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