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COVID-19 and its vaccine debates are a reproductive justice issue. Google and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) say, “If you are pregnant, you may choose to be vaccinate when it’s available to you.

Excellent—only it is next to a red warning label. Pregnant people and new parents need the most reliable information available until true pharmaceutical trials on mamas and small children are complete. COVID-19 is more infectious and has a greater likelihood of complications for pregnant women. Being on a ventilator, having a preterm birth and being separated from your infant at birth are all real possibilities for a birthing person with COVID-19.

Black and indigenous birthing people have a heightened awareness because of our general experiences of disparate outcomes in infant and maternal health. Now that the vaccine is so widely available  in the U.S., all of my sister circles are all talking about who has gotten what shot. 

We all want to live in a world without a pandemic; crushing covid is incumbent on us taking some sort of action as a global family. COVID-19 will continue to mutate and scientists will continue to make products to protect the population from uncontrollable viral spread. The COVID booster shots may work their way into your workplace, your childrens’ school and other places you frequent. It’s suggested that pregnant people talk to their physician about their questions. To be honest, most birthing people have made their decision before even asking a healthcare provider. For the Black mamas who do not yet know what to do about the COVID-19 vaccine, folks ask, “Why not?”

 

Why Not?

When setting personal boundaries, we have the bodily autonomy to choose our whys- and our why nots. Realistically, if you’ve received other vaccines in your lifetime, this vaccine should be a drop in the bucket. Pregnant people are encouraged by their physicians to receive the flu and T-DAP vaccines to protect their infant from other respiratory illnesses, like pertussis. The risks of long COVID complications outweigh the discomfort of vaccine side effects and the fear of government chip control. The COVID-19 vaccine’s mRNA technology is sophisticated and “new” to us, but scientists have been funded to research its biological capability for over a decade. 

Assess Your Own Risk

The essential workers are also birthing people. Many pregnant people and new parents are trying to get back to their pre pandemic earning potential. In either case, we are outside and many of us have high touch interactions with the public. They may want to protect themselves from contagious others, which is a great selfish reason to opt-in to the vaccine. They want to be present and healthy for their families without incessantly worrying about dying or inadvertently killing anyone else via COVID transmission.

The collective benefit to COVID-19 vaccination is reducing the impact of asymptomatic spread on the community and economy.  The COVID-19 vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing severe infections, which is very important to folks who have high touch careers, people growing their families and/or caring for elders. One fewer person burdening your local hospital is a win during this pandemic, especially if its downstream impact affects the quality of our hospital birthing experiences. 

Reassurances

Though the vaccine was developed quickly, it has not skipped any steps in its development and safety assurances, but it was ushered past the unnecessary bureaucratic red tape that makes the FDA famously slow for other products. Pregnant people were not included in the trials because it is standard to exclude them. But like any other pharmaceutical trial, people still have sex and get pregnant! The birthing people in the trial that did get pregnant experienced no adverse effect to themselves or the infant. In fact, the only miscarriages that occurred in the trial were of people who received the placebo shot. The CDC, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) all say that the protective antibodies from the vaccine can pass to the infant through breastfeeding.

Again the choice to vaccinate- or not- still requires you masking, washing, and distancing to protect your household from infection. Those refusing to vaccinate may delve into holistic medicine, herbal remedies and under-researched chemical compounds like hydroxychloroquine. If you opt out of the shot, be thinking about your long-term anti-vax strategy, because this virus could take a generation to overcome. Vaccinations are one of the only largescale and effective public health methods of conquering a global disease. Opting in is reinforcing a critical barrier to the chain of disease transmission, for all. 

Our physical longevity, the longterm wellbeing of our growing families, and the prospect of comfortable holiday gatherings this winter are all on the table. Regardless of your own chronic conditions, beliefs, religious or political motivation, reproductive justice will always support the human right to bodily autonomy and decision making for ourselves and our families.

Please visit these following links and articles for more COVID-19 information for birthing people and new parents. 

Addressing Health Equity During the COVID-19 Pandemic- ACOG Position Statement

V-Safe Pregnancy Registry- ACOG

Study: COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe During Pregnancy And May Protect Baby, Too- National Public Radio (NPR)

Black Maternal Health Week- Black Mamas Matter Alliance

National Infertility Awareness Week 

 

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