Open letter to hapū wāhine, pregnant women, pregnant people, whānau and families welcoming a new pēpi/baby(ies) about the Covid-19 vaccination from ngā Kaiwhakawhānau – the Midwives of Aotearoa.
Having a baby is a time when whānau come together to celebrate and support one another. Covid-19 has disrupted our lives and separated many families across the motu/country and the world. As the health professionals who support you at one of the most profound times in life, we know how vital it is for people to gather during hapūtanga/pregnancy and early parenting and we look forward to a time when this is possible for all of us again. Vaccination will help us to get there.
Every culture in the world knows that hapūtanga/pregnancy is a time when health is important. There are things we do and things we avoid to protect our growing pēpi. So it is understandable that people have questions about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine during hapūtanga/pregnancy.
As kaiwhakawhānau/midwives, we want you to know that it is far safer to have the vaccine when you are pregnant, than it is to risk catching Covid-19. We strongly recommend that you get vaccinated if you are are hapū/pregnant, breastfeeding, or lactating as soon as you can. We also recommend that everyone over 12 in your whānau is vaccinated.
This is because Covid-19 is already in our communities in Tāmaki Makau-Rau/Auckland, Waikato and Te Taitokerau and will find its way across Aotearoa. From our experience so far in Aotearoa, as well as in many countries overseas, we know that Covid-19 disease is more risky during pregnancy. Those who get Covid-19 delta while pregnant have a much higher chance of becoming severely unwell, having to be admitted to hospital for treatment, and being admitted to intensive care, than people of the same age who are not pregnant. Having Covid-19 during pregnancy also means a higher chance of needing to have a caesarean section because the māmā/birthing parent is so unwell, and a higher chance of the pēpi being born preterm and having to be admitted to a neonatal unit. This means the new pēpi is separated from whānau who usually can’t visit because of the risk of infection.
The Covid-19 vaccination protects māmā/birthing parent and pēpi/baby, because the protective antibodies cross the placenta and also transfer to your wai ū / breastmilk / human milk. Being vaccinated with both doses protects you against needing to be hospitalised or admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 delta infection. By reducing the likelihood of severe Covid infection so much, it also protects pēpi/babies from being born prematurely, and supports the new whānau to stay together and be well, as they should be.
If you have questions about the Covid-19 vaccine during pregnancy or when feeding your pēpi, please ask your midwife, or call the Immunisation Advisory Centre on 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863), or ask another trusted health professional.
Other health professional groups are standing up for vaccination, click here for more.