pregnancy

'I'm torn between getting the COVID-19 vaccine to see my family, and having a second child.'

Australian Stefanie Petrides' family all lives overseas, and she hasn't seen them in years.

She's also the mother of a three-year-old, and planning to try for another child.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping her and her family separated for longer than usual, and the uncertainty of travel plans and vaccination timelines - especially if Petrides did fall pregnant - she's feeling torn.

Speaking to Mamamia's daily news podcast The Quicky, Petrides said she was weighing up pausing her baby plans to get vaccinated in the hope of seeing family overseas sooner, or trying for a baby as soon as possible - which could mean possibly pushing back vaccination, and probably the travel that comes with it.

Watch: How to talk to anti-vaxxers. Post continues below video.


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Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in November the airline would likely require international passengers to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 before boarding their flight.

"[My' family is] spread across Greece, the United Arab Emirates and London, and we all try meet in Greece every few years and that was meant to be 2020. So, it's been quite a while," Petrides explained.

"I'm really torn to be honest with you. If something were to happen to my parents... I would never forgive myself for not going back. I'm just sat here thinking 'please get me on a plane so I can go home and see everyone, I miss them so much.'

"But then again I just don't want to wait too long [to try for a second child] and not be able to conceive or have other issues."

Petrides said with baby number one, she'd had a 'career vs. baby' dilemma. Now, she faced the same, with the added dilemma of a global pandemic and travel restrictions.

"I feel like there's so much on our plate and there's no way it'll line up."

Australia's COVID-19 vaccine roll-out is due to begin in February but it seems a return to 'normality' is still a long way off around the world.

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The World Health Organization last week warned despite worldwide vaccination programs, herd immunity is highly unlikely this year. Which likely means strict social distancing and other outbreak control measures for the foreseeable future. 

And for many people like Petrides, who are looking to start or expand their family, it may also mean a choice.

A survey by market researcher Roy Morgan of more than 1200 respondents found over three-quarters of Australians say they would be willing to be vaccinated when it becomes publicly available, but most clinical trials into treatments and vaccines against COVID-19 excluded pregnant or breastfeeding women. 

This means there is little to no data at all about what the vaccine means for pregnancy.

That's not to say it's dangerous; there is simply just not enough data to say anything at all. The Australian Federal Government has not yet released its vaccine advice for pregnancy.

Listen: The Quicky explores the advice for pregnant women about the COVID-19 vaccine. Post continues below audio.

Dr Sanjaya Senananyake, an infectious disease expert at Australian National University, told The Quicky the best way to learn if the vaccines are definitely safe for pregnant women is through clinical trials - but this process would not allow quick results.

"There's certainly been talk from the lead vaccine makers at this stage of the vaccine development that they would be enrolling pregnant women but I don't know if it's happened just yet," he said.

Dr Senananyake explained there was a very good reason women were not included in trials - after medications thalidomide and diethylstilbestrol caused disastrous side effects and defects for women and babies in the 1960s and 1970s.

"Because of those issues, I think justifiably everyone was concerned about enrolling pregnant women in trials for medications or vaccines and so it just doesn't happen," he said.

"Normally that's not a big issue because we can just do the normal trials without pregnant women, we can take our time and get the results and say 'this looks good in the non-pregnant population, let's start enrolling pregnant women because it's unlikely to be an issue'.

"But of course, COVID has changed the speed in which we're doing things... So we've come to a stage where the vaccines are already being rolled out and we don't have the answer about whether pregnant women should have the vaccines or not."

Image: Getty.

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Dr Senananyake said the answer would probably be yes, especially with the Pfizer vaccine which does not include the live virus, but we had to wait for the data to be sure.

Another part of this conversation is that pregnancy puts a person at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms and requiring treatment in an intensive care units.

At this stage, there is no strong evidence of long-term impacts on foetuses and babies if the mother gets COVID.

Australia is expected to have its lowest population growth since the first World War, with a drop in migration and a dropping fertility rate.

Melbourne IVF fertility specialist Dr Manuela Toledo told The Quicky people who are currently pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding should discuss their options with their doctor.

"What we have to remember is that this is all very new for all of us, all around the world. The vaccine has only just started being given overseas and we just don't have any long-term studies," Dr Toledo said.

"But we do know that other vaccinations like influenza and tetanus are safe in pregnancy and all the studies to date do not show any adverse short-term effects," she said.

Dr Toledo said more and more data was likely to come in the next few months, but right now the recommendation was to at least consider vaccination and have that conversation with a health care professional.

Feature image: Getty.