BREMERTON — When Dr. Megan Northup talks to her pregnant patients about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, she can draw upon an experience truly personal: she’s expecting an expecting mother, too.
“And I would not think twice about getting it,” Northup, an OB/GYN at Naval Hospital Bremerton, said of the shot. “I knew it was the best thing I could do to protect myself against infection.”
Rates of vaccination among pregnant women are indeed much lower than that of the general population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among Northup’s goals as a physician is doing her part to increase that rate, sometimes drawing upon herself as an example.
“When I feel it is appropriate and sense that there is fear about the unknowns of the vaccine versus the virus, sometimes I do share that if I wasn’t already vaccinated, I would be getting the vaccine immediately,” said Northup, a lieutenant commander in the Navy.
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Her own COVID-19 shots came before she was pregnant. She was among the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine in December 2020, getting the jabs knowing full well that pregnancies come to term when they come — they cannot be delayed like other hospital procedures, even if the woman is COVID-19 positive.
“You can’t postpone a delivery,” said Northup, a native of Shawnee, Kansas, with more than eight years in the Navy.
The Biden Administration’s plan to mandate vaccinations for federal workers includes the possibility of delay in getting the shot for pregnant women, while the employee’s “medical circumstances” are considered. But the CDC says those pregnant “are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared to non-pregnant people” and are also at increased risk for preterm birth and poorer pregnancy outcomes, it found.
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Better still, a study by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology—Maternal-fetal Medicine found that pregnant recipients of the Pfizer, Moderna and so-called mRNA COVID-19 vaccines pass high levels of antibodies to their babies.
Northup tells patients that the vaccines are “an advanced copy of the instruction manual on how to fight the virus.” She urges all to have conversations with their health care providers to make the choice to vaccinate, and steer away from “Dr. Google,” and misinformation that has surged in the pandemic.
“Trust the medical professionals,” said Northup, who moved to the Pacific Northwest with the Navy in June. “No doctor is in this with malicious intent. We trust the science and the emerging data. We’re human and we’re trying the best we can.”
Josh Farley is a reporter covering the military and health care for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227, email@example.com or on Twitter at @joshfarley.