Pro-choice statements on the mandate of the Covid-19 vaccine for ‘selfish’ and ‘disappointing’ midwives
Two maternity associations refuse to take a stand for vaccinations against Covid-19 and instead promote âselfishâ messages around âbodily autonomyâ.
The Maternity Services Consumers Council (MSCC) and Homebirth Aotearoa issued statements in response to the government mandating the vaccination of high-risk healthcare workers earlier this month.
The MSCC statement, posted on social media last week, said it was “saddened” that midwives are denied the right to make informed choice as part of their mandate.
âWe support our midwives regardless of their personal health choices,â he said.
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Homebirth Aotearoa’s statement was more nuanced. He said he discussed the impact Covid-19 could have on home birth, including the tenure of healthcare professionals.
âWe discussed the right to informed decision-making and bodily autonomy. We discussed a sense of responsibility, to protect vulnerable people in our communities.
“We discussed the implications of leaving some midwives, in an already strained profession,” he said.
Both groups have been contacted for comment.
Vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said pregnant women are at high risk of complications and of losing their babies if they contract Covid-19.
âI think it’s a very selfish position to take if you don’t take every precaution to keep these women safe,â she said.
Statistics from the UK show that nearly 20% of the most seriously ill Covid patients are unvaccinated pregnant people.
U.S. hospitals have reported a similar spike in unvaccinated pregnant women falling seriously ill and dying from Covid-19.
More than five pregnant women in New Zealand have already landed in Auckland hospitals with Covid-19 during this year’s outbreak, a disproportionate number, said Petousis-Harris.
Statements from maternity groups could also confuse pregnant women who might not be sure about the vaccine, despite clear evidence that it is safe at any stage of pregnancy, she said.
Ten midwives in Taranaki have said they will not be vaccinated against Covid-19, and some midwives in Auckland have expressed concern over the tenure.
WaitematÄ’s obstetric anesthesiologist Dr Morgan Edwards said the MSCC had been disseminating “blatant misinformation” for a long time, so their statement was not surprising.
They were not an official body and should not be considered a reliable source of information, she said.
Homebirth Aotearoa’s statement was “very disappointing” but seemed more political, she said.
“It feels like they don’t want to alienate people who don’t want to be vaccinated because there is so much turmoil in midwifery right now.”
Edwards, who shares pregnancy and Covid information on Instagram with more than 43,000 followers, said she was increasingly responding to patients and subscribers’ questions about misinformation.
She said the vast majority of midwives supported the Covid-19 vaccine, but a small minority was disseminating “completely made up” disinformation.
Auckland obstetrician Michelle Wise said midwives have a professional duty of care to their patients, which means getting vaccinated.
âIt’s a tough enough time for women to be pregnant with lockdowns and all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, and having your midwife ignoring official guidelines is a concern,â she said.
Wise said pregnant women are naturally reluctant to take medication during pregnancy, but the Pfizer vaccine is safe for pregnant women and would protect them and their babies.
Research with hundreds of thousands of participants has found no increased risk of miscarriage or fetal abnormalities in pregnant women who received the Pfizer vaccine.
NZ College of Midwives chief executive Alison Eddy said other groups have the right to share their views, but the college’s position on the Covid-19 vaccine was very clear
âWe actively promote and encourage immunization and a collective response above personal choice,â she said.
She was more concerned with the spread of misinformation about the vaccine than with people making a “philosophical statement” about vaccine mandates, she said.
The Pfizer vaccine does not cross the placenta, but the antibodies produced by the mother’s body in response to the vaccine do, protecting the baby, she said.
She was aware that “a very small number” of midwives had said they would resign during the term.