- After research and discussions with medical providers, she concluded that the unknown risk associated with getting the vaccine was relatively small, in comparison with the potential risks of contracting COVID-19 while expecting.
Pregnancy is usually a time of joy and celebration for families as they anticipate welcoming a new addition to their households. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made many worry about the health of mothers and their unborn children. The introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine may be a game changer, as families determine how to keep themselves safe ,as we collectively ride out the pandemic.
For two-term Charlotte City Councilwoman Dimple Ajmera, the COVID-19 vaccine represents new possibilities of navigating coronavirus with more certainty and safety as she and her family look forward to welcoming their baby in June.
During interviews explaining her decision to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Ajmera always emphasizes the need to be objective when weighing the level of risk in choosing whether or not to get vaccinated. As the coronavirus pandemic has been around for over a year now, data collected on the effect of contracting COVID-19 on healthy pregnant women has shown that they are at a higher risk for showing more severe COVID symptoms, including being sent to the ICU or having preterm birth.
These are the facts that Ajmera knew from her own research and from talking to her healthcare providers including her OBGYN. She was unfortunately pushed into a conundrum — the risks of contracting COVID as a pregnant woman were too high — but the new vaccines have not been lab tested on pregnant women and therefore contain an unknown amount of risk.
When I spoke with her, she revealed that she had initially been opposed to taking the COVID-19 vaccine. Because of the lack of clinical data on how the vaccine affected pregnant women, she was understandably reluctant to take the vaccine.
So what prompted her to change her mind on the matter? Data.
It has been several months since the first wave of vaccines were rolled out in the United States and it has been several weeks since the first groups of those in the general population have had access to COVID-19 vaccines. According to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, tens of thousands of pregnant women have gotten the vaccine since then.
Ajmera ended up changing her mind on the vaccine after carefully conducting research on her own and with her medical providers. She said that the unknown risk associated with getting the vaccine was relatively small, especially in comparison with the potential risks of getting COVID-19 while pregnant.
In the end, it was a combination of weighing benefits, risks, and alternatives and considering what her intuition told her that convinced Ajmera to get the vaccine as opposed to staying in quarantine indefinitely. When we talked, she emphasized that the decision on whether or not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus is one that each pregnant person needs to make for themselves by doing the research and consulting their medical team.
Ajmera has been very open about the fact that her job as a Charlotte city council member and her husband’s job as a dentist means that she cannot afford to quarantine indefinitely until the coronavirus pandemic ends. This is obviously not the case for the vast majority of those expecting to give birth in the near future, but I think that we can all learn from her example in dealing with medical uncertainties. Although living through the coronavirus pandemic is stressful, staying informed about our personal health through the pandemic can bring comfort.
Amy Ohara is a third-year undergraduate student studying public policy and economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She grew up in Charlotte, NC and is passionate about preserving the history of people of color in the South.