Health funds to begin vaccinating pregnant women on Wednesday

At least 10 women are in serious condition * Schneider Children’s Hospital rabbi: ‘These babies did nothing wrong’

Pregnant woman (Illustrative) (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Pregnant woman (Illustrative)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
The Health Ministry has given its approval for pregnant women to receive the coronavirus vaccine, and they can begin getting inoculated as early as Wednesday.
Messages from several health funds were disseminated to inform women that they could make appointments and would be given priority to come and get inoculated.
“Leumit will begin vaccinating tomorrow, January 20, 2021, pregnant women regardless of their age,” Leumit Health Care Services said Tuesday in a statement. “The decision was made in recognition of the importance of protecting pregnant women and in light of the increase in new cases in recent days of pregnant women hospitalized in critical condition.”
Similar messages were sent out by the other health funds.
According to the stance of the National Council for Women and the Health Ministry’s committee for determining vaccination priority, women who are highly exposed to the public or who have preexisting medical conditions are encouraged to be vaccinated to prevent infection due to their likelihood of developing a serious case of COVID-19.
“There is a higher incidence of serious COVID-19 in pregnant women who become infected with coronavirus,” the Health Ministry said in a statement. But the decision to vaccinate “is in the hands of the pregnant woman,” it added.
Until now, neither the Health Ministry, the World Health Organization nor Pfizer, the maker of the vaccine being used in Israel, have recommended allowing pregnant women to be vaccinated because the company’s clinical trials did not include them. However, Pfizer had earlier published studies that did involve pregnant women who did not know they were pregnant when they received their vaccinations, and their pregnancies and births were normal.
However, on Tuesday, Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, head of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, said she was also encouraging pregnant women to get vaccinated as more of them appear in the country’s coronavirus intensive-care units in serious condition.
“To all pregnant women who are hesitant to go and get the COVID[-19] vaccine, I personally truly recommend it,” she said in a video message. “I think getting COVID while you are pregnant is worse than getting a vaccine that does not seem to be endangering pregnant women in any way. We are giving the flu and pertussis vaccine during pregnancy. An mRNA vaccine should not in any way be more dangerous, and the COVID infection definitely is.”
More than 30 pregnant women are hospitalized with the virus, including 10 who are in serious or critical condition. There have been several premature cesarean deliveries in recent days for women who required intubation.
LATE MONDAY night, The Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva said a 35-year-old woman with the virus in her 31st week of pregnancy was admitted to the hospital after her condition deteriorated. Immediately upon her arrival, it was decided to intubate her and deliver the baby, who is now in stable condition and being ventilated at Schneider Children’s Medical Center for Israel in Petah Tikva.
This woman joined another woman, 33-year-old Rachel, who was in critical and unstable condition at the hospital. Her baby was delivered Friday at 31 weeks and is also at Schneider in critical condition.
A woman in her mid-30s and 21 weeks pregnant is in the coronavirus ICU, Sheba reported.
On Monday night, Laniado Medical Center in Netanya said two pregnant women came to the hospital within 36 hours in serious condition. One of them underwent emergency cesarean surgery and was anesthetized and intubated in a coronavirus ward. The other was transferred to another hospital.
The Israel Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, together with the National Council of Gynecology and Genetics and the Israeli Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine, sent a letter to the Health Ministry Monday morning, calling on the ministry to approve having pregnant and nursing women vaccinated.
“There is no scientific basis or facts that indicate infertility as a result of the vaccine,” the society wrote. “Coronavirus can be harmful during pregnancy, causing more serious illness and premature birth.”
Prof. Yariv Yogev, director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Sheba, said during the Puah Institute’s annual conference earlier this month that pregnant women should get vaccinated, especially if they have risk factors.
The vaccine does not cause abortions or malformations of the fetus, and it does not pass into the milk of breastfeeding women, he said.
However, fertility specialists at the conference said there is a lack of in-depth research on the subject, and great uncertainty remains about the effects of the vaccine on fertility, pregnancy, childbirth and genetics.
REGARDING clinical trials, children and pregnant women are generally considered special populations, and therefore they were not included in the Pfizer trials.
“When it comes to this particular vaccine, people have to remember it is not an approved vaccine per se,” Prof. Cyrille Cohen, head of Bar-Ilan University’s Immunotherapy Laboratory, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “It is a vaccine authorized under emergency use, and the main reason for that is that we trust that the benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh the risks. When it comes to these populations, children and pregnant women, we have to ask ourselves if this premise is still true.”
With children, the answer is likely no, as there are few if any cases of children who develop serious cases of COVID-19, he said.
In the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, Israel had very few pregnant women contract the virus or experience serious cases, which is not the case in the current wave, especially in view of the British mutation.
“This is a violent and more severe wave [of coronavirus] than its predecessors,” said Prof. Arnon Wiznitzer, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Beilinson. “It is also affecting the population of young pregnant women.”
Cohen said the chance of developing serious symptoms is increased for pregnant women.
“Is it 1% or 15% more? We don’t know,” he said, adding that providing treatment to pregnant women is also more complicated, and it often results in the need to deliver their babies prematurely. This puts the babies at risk, too.
“Two hours ago, I was in the nursery at Schneider,” said Rabbi Asher Laby, the hospital’s rabbi. “There are four babies in there whose mothers are in the coronavirus intensive-care unit at Beilinson, 100 meters from us. I know one of the families. The baby came in and I looked through the nursery window. He is so cute and sweet – this baby lying there in the bed and his mother in a critical, life-threatening situation. She is hooked up to a ventilator, living on drugs.”
He told the Post he cried for the baby, and “I prayed to God, ‘Let this boy, when he cries, be able to get a kiss and a hug from his mother.’”
“This is a call to humanity,” Laby said. “Follow the rules. These babies did nothing wrong.”