On November 26, 2021, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement on the importance of COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant, recently pregnant and breastfeeding people.
November 26, 2021 – Ottawa, ON – Public Health Agency of Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While Canada has achieved great success in vaccinating a significant proportion of our population against COVID-19, some groups lag behind in uptake. One key group that appears to have lower uptake of COVID-19 vaccines is people who are pregnant. This is particularly concerning because there is growing evidence that pregnant people and their babies are at increased risk of severe illness due to COVID-19. This can result in hospitalization, intensive care admission and tragically may lead to death. As well, COVID-19 infection is associated with increased risk of complications during pregnancy such as preterm birth, stillbirth, low-birth weight, and caesarean birth.
Babies under one year of age are more likely than older children to develop serious illness with COVID-19 and unvaccinated parents are at higher risk of infecting those around them, including their babies. Research shows that vaccination with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy triggers the development of antibodies against the virus. These antibodies can pass through the umbilical cord to the fetus, which may then provide babies with a level of protection against COVID-19. Likewise, research shows that breastmilk of people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 have antibodies, which may provide some protection. More research is needed to determine the level of protection provided to babies as a result of vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), other expert guidance bodies, and professional medical societies in Canada and around in the world are aligned in recommending vaccination against COVID-19 to protect pregnant and recently pregnant people and their babies. This includes the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), which recommends that all individuals who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should receive COVID-19 vaccines, during any trimester of the pregnancy and/or while breastfeeding.
With hundreds of thousands of pregnant people vaccinated with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines around the world, ongoing national and global vaccine safety monitoring systems are demonstrating that the vaccines are safe and remain highly effective in preventing severe illness outcomes. Many parents or hopeful parents are understandably anxious about possible risks for their baby, in both the short and longer term. Experts agree that there is no evidence to suggest any adverse pregnancy or neonatal outcomes associated with COVID-19 vaccination. Moreover, there is no evidence of fertility problems due to any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines.
During pregnancy, the amount of advice people receive can be overwhelming and not always clear. I and my health colleagues across Canada want to ensure that pregnant people and their families have access to the best and most up-to-date evidence in order to make an informed decision on getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Recently, rumours and disinformation have been spreading on social media regarding increased risk of stillbirths in Canada with vaccination. These rumours are completely without merit and have been unequivocally discredited by health authorities in the implicated health regions. As above, COVID-19 vaccines are strongly recommended to help protect you and your baby against serious illness and potentially life-threatening complications.
If you are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant or breastfeeding and have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, your healthcare provider is a trusted source to listen to your concerns, provide additional information and guide you along the way to informed and confident decision-making.
If you are reading or sharing information through your social media channels, please make sure that the information is from an original source that you can trust. Canada.ca and SOGC are reliable sources for information on COVID-19 in pregnancy, child birth and caring for a newborn, including the importance of vaccination. Be aware that disinformation actors/cyber attackers take advantage of high-profile events, such as COVID-19 that cause worry and concern for many people. Take steps to Stay Cyber-healthy during COVID-19, learn more about and report COVID-19 scams, frauds and misleading claims. You can also find free resources, including a parent’s guide to finding trustworthy health information on the internet and other digital and media literacy tools to help keep parents and kids safer online.
Public Health Agency of Canada