Lack of knowledge about the COVID-19 vaccine has led to hesitation among pregnant women

When the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine began, pregnant women were reluctant to roll up their sleeves for injections, according to a survey conducted by the University of California, Davis.

In the study, published in the journal Vaccine, a team of researchers interviewed 387 pregnant California women to gather perceptions and reasons for getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The online survey was conducted between December 2020 and January 2021, shortly after the first COVID-19 vaccines received emergency use authorization in the United States.

“I don’t know enough”

Survey results showed that 98.7% of participants were aware of the newly developed vaccine, but more than half were hesitant to get vaccinated, and 43% of respondents said they planned to get vaccinated as soon as possible. that would be offered to them. The remaining 57% were hesitant. Of these, 27% said they would not receive the vaccine as soon as it was offered, and 30% were unsure.

The most common answer for hesitation was, “I don’t know enough about the vaccine. Leigh Ann Simmons, professor of human ecology and lead author of the study, said that since pregnant people were not included in early vaccine trials, it was reasonable that these people would be reluctant to get vaccinated.

“It was no surprise that not knowing enough about the vaccine was high on the list,” Simmons said. “The timing of the survey was the right one when the vaccine came out, and without studies in pregnant women, it makes sense that this concern would have existed.”

Decision making during pregnancy

The survey also found that respondents trusted healthcare providers, including doctors and nurses, to provide them with information about the vaccine. Simmons said that going forward, now that pregnant women are beginning to be included in vaccine trials, public health agencies and individual healthcare providers should work together to provide more information about vaccines. to patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccine trials on pregnant women are currently underway or planned.

“There is a hesitant group of people, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get the vaccine,” she said. “If vaccine information is communicated in a way that people can figure it out for themselves, then they can make an informed decision for themselves and their babies.”

The survey also found that essential worker status was associated with vaccine hesitancy. The results showed that 56% of essential workers were hesitant, compared to 44% of non-essential workers who were hesitant.

Seasonal influenza vaccine refusal was also highly predictive of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. The results showed that 78 participants said they had not received, and did not intend to receive, a flu shot. Of these, 90% were also hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine. However, of the remaining 287 participants who said they had received or intended to receive the flu shot, 46% were hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Simmons suggested that it wasn’t that these people were hesitant about getting a vaccine during pregnancy, but rather that they were hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine in particular.

According to the study authors, terms such as “vaccine hesitant” and “anti-vax” do not adequately describe or explain vaccination-related decisions, because in this sample hesitation was primarily associated with the uncertainty of the effect of the vaccine on pregnancy and the fetus. development.

“We like to box people up very quickly, and that’s probably one of the least useful things we can do in public health, because the minute we box people in, we’ve lost an opportunity. to educate,” Simmons said. “It’s about meeting people where they are, and we still have a long way to go on that.”

Reference: Simmons LA, Whipps MDM, Phipps JE, Satish NS, Swamy GK. Understanding COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake in Pregnancy: Hesitation, Knowledge, and Evidence-Based Decision-Making. Vaccine. 2022;40(19):2755-2760. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2022.03.044

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Donald E. Patel