For most of her life, Emily Kraft, M.D., has tried not to be the first – or the last – to do things, but there she was on the opening day of Reid Health’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic, rolling up her sleeve to get the shot.
Her position as the health system’s EMS Medical Director meant the new mother had an opportunity to be among the early adopters to be vaccinated for the novel coronavirus.
Research and Research Some More
So she got to work. She reviewed data from a study that included 44,000 participants; listened to fellow physicians and scientists as they explained the development process; and learned from experts about the mRNA technology used by Pfizer.
“I spent a lot of time researching the vaccine because it not only impacted me but also my daughter since I am still breastfeeding her,” Dr. Kraft said.
“In doing so, I better understood that the vaccine development wasn’t rushed but rather had the red tape removed.”
All of them said the same thing: The vaccine should not be withheld from women who are trying to conceive, who are pregnant or who are lactating who otherwise would be eligible to be inoculated.
But beyond all the data and expert opinions, the most compelling piece of evidence in favor of being vaccinated was the sheer number of others like her who were eager to get in line.
“Beyond all the research, for me, seeing other women in medicine all jump at the chance to sign up helped to confirm my decision,” Dr. Kraft said.
“I am part of a group of 35,000 women physicians as of January who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding across the U.S. and Canada, and the general consensus was these female physicians were excited to get the vaccine.”
She knows not everyone shares her view. Along with the scientific studies and medical advice from trusted institutions, Dr. Kraft came across other sources that raised fears of the unknown that could create confusion and sow doubt.
“There is unfortunately a lot of misinformation circulating, and it becomes difficult for people to know what to believe,” she said. “I have seen all kinds of conspiracies on the internet.”
One in particular that Dr. Kraft found to be harmful centers around whether the vaccine affects a person’s fertility.
“As a female hoping to add to our family in the future, this one made me really stop and look into it,” she said.
Currently, there is no evidence that antibodies formed from COVID-19 vaccination cause any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. In fact, there’s no evidence suggesting fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine.
“At least 20 women became pregnant during the studies after receiving the vaccine without complication,” Dr. Kraft said. “As of January, more than 15,000 pregnant women had registered with the v-safe reporting system that they had received the vaccine.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s v-safe app for smartphones is used to check in on people’s health after they’ve been vaccinated.
It’s part of the CDC’s effort to track side effects, which is particularly important for groups of people who weren’t part of the manufacturers’ clinical trials.
Pregnant women initially weren’t included in the first trials for the COVID-19 vaccine, although as Dr. Kraft pointed out, some women became pregnant as the trials continued.
Groups such as the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all have looked at the available data and concluded there’s no reason why pregnant women shouldn’t be allowed to be vaccinated nor is there reason to believe the vaccine will have a negative impact on fertility.
The same can be said about breastfeeding, according to Thomas Huth, M.D., Vice President of Medical Affairs for Reid Health.
“The CDC’s key takeaway is there has been no research on use in lactating women yet, but there are no known risks so far and there is no theoretic reason to worry about harm to mom or baby based on knowledge about how the vaccines work,” he said.
Instead, there’s reason to believe mom getting vaccinated could benefit her child.
“Antibodies in breast milk have long been known to give immune protection to breastfeeding babies from a variety of illnesses, and it’s thought to be one reason why it is rare for a mother actively ill with COVID-19 to pass the infection to a breastfeeding baby,” Dr. Huth said.
“It will not be surprising if it is discovered vaccination gives protection to a breastfeeding baby.”
For those who might come to him with questions and concerns, Joseph Clemente, M.D., Reid OB-GYN and Chief of Staff, tries to offer advice tailored to each patient’s particular situation, given the fact that data continues to be collected about the vaccine.
“I honestly counsel each patient on an individual basis depending on their particular concerns and situations,” he said.
Be Confident in Your Decision
Dr. Kraft’s position as an emergency physician has given her a perspective on the pandemic that many other mothers or would-be moms don’t have. What she has seen through her work has left her confident in the decision to be vaccinated.
“I have unfortunately seen this virus cause devastation for families. I’ve sat with patients as they took their last breath. I have seen young, otherwise healthy people have symptoms lasting for months,” she said.
“This virus is not like any other virus I have dealt with as an emergency physician. It is not just the flu.”
“I would encourage all young women who may be pregnant, have young children or are looking to have children in the future to speak with their doctor about the vaccine and if it’s right for them. Look to reliable sources for information.”
“For me, getting the vaccine gave me peace of mind that not only was it offering protection for me, but more importantly, it offers me reassurance that I am less likely to infect my daughter, my husband, my mother and all those around me who I care about.”
Vaccination Clinic is Open
Reid’s community vaccination clinic at the Kuhlman Center on the Wayne County Fairgrounds in Richmond is open 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.
Appointments should be scheduled through the state website, ourshot.in.gov. If you need help, you can register directly with the Kuhlman Center Vaccine Clinic by calling (765) 935-8484.
Everyone 16 and older is eligible to be vaccinated in Indiana, but only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for those ages 16-17. Reid’s Kuhlman Center site uses the Pfizer product.
*This blog article was supplied by Reid Health to support Forward Wayne County’s health and wellness area of focus.