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Pregnancy and Covid-19 vaccine: 'I cannot risk introducing something strange in my body'

EXPLAINERS
By Jael Mboga | June 6th 2021

One of the misconceptions is that the vaccine hurts the foetus and possibly future chances of conceiving. 

 

Priscilla Nyaboke sits in her salon in Mlango Kubwa slum in Nairobi county, waiting for clients.

While she waits for customers, Nyaboke dines on pasta she carried in a plastic lunchbox, comfortably resting it on her growing belly.

Like many in her condition, Nyaboke is worried about being pregnant in the middle of a pandemic.

She tells me she doubts the doctors understand the coronavirus and thus has little faith in the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine currently in use in the country.

The a little over one million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, on March 3.

The government led by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe urged the public to come out to take the vaccine.

But what the government did not anticipate were the misconceptions that would surround the vaccine and its subsequent rollout.

One of the misconceptions is that the vaccine hurts the foetus and possibly future chances of conceiving.   

Nyaboke is 22. She says she cannot risk having complications with her first pregnancy. She says she may want to have more children in the future.

"I am currently a single parent on this journey after my boyfriend said he wants nothing to do with it. So if I were to have complications with my pregnancy I do not know who will help me. I am alone."

Nyaboke has blamed the government for what she calls scanty information on what effects the virus has on pregnancies, the mothers, or women thinking about having children.

However, during one of the daily Covid-19 media addresses in the country, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Mercy Mwangangi admitted that there had been a sharp decrease in the number of hospital visits, pregnant women included.

The majority of Kenyans requiring medical attention were avoiding hospitals over fears that they would contract the virus. But Dr Mwangangi called on citizens to visit the hospital to seek professional help when required.

The Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, has posted on its website that the use of Covid vaccines in pregnant women is limited as preliminary animal studies do not indicate direct or indirect harmful effects on either the mother or the foetus.

The quote continues, "The full relevance of animal studies to human risk with vaccines for Covid-19 remains to be established. Administration of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in pregnancy should only be considered when the potential benefits outweigh any potential risks for the mother and foetus.”

Such statements only aggravate Nyaboke's worries about getting the vaccine. She is yet to get vaccinated and says she has no intentions of doing so.

The Aga Khan hospital website also says there is evidence from some vaccines that the breast-feeding baby may acquire a level of protection if the mother is vaccinated and that the vaccine is recommended for use during breastfeeding.

As of May 26, 2021, at least 960,000 people had been vaccinated in Kenya. When releasing the statistics, it is unclear how many of those tested for coronavirus were pregnant women.

Nyaboke's fears were further compounded by a Business Daily report in April which stated, "Initial trials which were conducted excluded pregnant and breastfeeding women. Clinical trials that look at the safety and how well the Covid-19 vaccines work in pregnant and breastfeeding people are underway."

The report added that initial Covid-19 trials excluded pregnant women.

"There is limited data on any potential side effects of the vaccine during pregnancy. However, a very small number of women who were enrolled in the trials became pregnant after receiving the vaccines," it said.

Asked why she is against the vaccine, Nyaboke further cited Dr Stephen Karanja, the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association chairman. She said a professional healthworker’s comments cannot be ignored by the masses and “ordinary people like me”.

He spread misleading information on the coronavirus vaccine.

In March, the Kenyan Catholic church was at loggerheads with the doctors’ association for spreading false information against the use of the Covid vaccine.

Last month, the Catholic doctors argued that there is no need for Kenyans to take the vaccine, saying it is unnecessary.

Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops' Dr Stephen Karanja in Nairobi on 28/07/2015. [File, Standard]

Dr Karanja was against the distribution and administration of the Covid-19 vaccines.

On March 5, he was quoted by Nation saying, “It seems there is something Bill Gates has invested in that requires the whole world to be vaccinated. What that investment is, remains the million-dollar question.”

His comments came a few days after he released a statement on March 3 titled “Stopping Ravages And Loss of Human Life from Covid-19”.

The nine-page document narrated population control theories and claims about Covid-19 testing and treatment.

According to AFP Fact Check some of the recommendations to treat Covid-19 as explained by Dr Karanja included inhaling steam several times a day, taking Ivermectin tablets and following the Zelenko protocol, which entails taking a combination of drugs daily for a week.

The Zelenko protocol involves taking a cocktail of hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Azithromycin (an antibiotic), taken for seven days.

Medical experts say none of these methods have been proven to work.

On April 29, Dr Karanja died of Covid-19. He passed away at the Mater Hospital where he was admitted to the High Dependency Unit.

A message seen by The Standard from his colleague Dr Wahome Ngare sent on April 20 said Karanja was admitted due to complications of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, until she gets more information on what effect the vaccine will have on her or her unborn baby, Nyaboke says she will observe physical distancing and always wear a mask.

"But I cannot take such a huge risk as introducing something strange in my body while my baby is still in there (sic)."

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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