‘A bit of a disconnect’: Ontario set to clarify vaccine eligibility for pregnant women

TORONTO — The Ontario government is reviewing its official vaccine eligibility criteria for pregnant women, amid a sudden spike in severe COVID-19 symptoms among expectant mothers.

“We have heard reports of the increased risk COVID-19 presents to pregnant women during the third wave and are actively looking into this,” a Ministry of Health spokesperson told CTV News Toronto in a statement.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has officially called for pregnant women to be eligible for COVID-19 immunization now, citing a wave of pregnant patients filling Ontario intensive care units and requiring ventilators.

“The modifications that happen naturally to the immune system of a pregnant woman are certainly very complex, paralleled with an infection that also has very complicated implications on the immune system,” Infectious Diseases Physician Dr. Ruchi Murthy told CTV News Toronto. “That overlap is probably why we’re seeing severe illness in those that do get infected with COVID-19.”

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday that a pregnant woman would qualify for immunization on the advice of a physician, but people like Natalie Dash, who is 26 weeks pregnant, have been told by the province’s vaccination booking phone line that they are still not eligible—even with a doctor’s note.

“There’s a bit of a disconnect between the government’s policy and what’s been implemented on the ground,” Dash said. “It doesn’t seem like that information is flowing down to the people booking those appointments.”

The Ministry of Health told CTV News Toronto in a statement that although vaccination with a doctor’s note is “current practice,” it is consulting with its clinical advisory subgroup about formally amending the vaccine guidelines for pregnant women “so that there will be no future confusion.”

In a bid to get some pregnant women the vaccine now, Michael Garron Hospital and Health Access Thorncliffe Park are planning an appointment-only vaccine pop-up clinic this Friday at 45 Overlea Blvd., for pregnant residents living in postal codes beginning with M4H, M1L, M3C, M4A, M1K, M1M, and M1J.

“Pregnant people have essential jobs, pregnant people are living with people who have essential jobs, and they have children that are going to school and daycare, so they’re not able always to stay home and isolate,” said Christie Lockhart, Department of Midwifery Chief at Michael Garron Hospital.

The pop-up clinic will allocate about a hundred doses to pregnant women in the designated hot-spot postal codes. Anyone eligible must book an appointment through their obstetrics provider.

New Brunswick announced Wednesday that all pregnant women in that province were eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Pregnant women in Alberta became eligible for immunization Mar. 30. 

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