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Conflicting advice, misinformation and refusal: More pregnant New Yorkers cite pushback in getting COVID-19 vaccines

Others said they were simply made to feel insecure about their decision to get vaccinated while pregnant — a familiar feeling for expecting parents.

Allison Valchuis, like Whyte, got her first shot in February 2021, when her pregnancy made her eligible for the then-hard-to-schedule doses in New York. She got vaccinated at the state-run mass-vaccination site at the Aqueduct Racetrack after consulting with her doctor. Going in, she said she was confident in her decision to get the shot. But the nurse administering it “asked a number of times if I was sure I really wanted to do that,” Valchuis recalled in an interview. “I said yes, but it just left me feeling very confused.”

Asking if someone is pregnant or considering becoming pregnant is a standard health screening question at city- and state-run vaccine sites. According to state guidance for health workers, if someone answers yes, they should follow up by asking if the person wants to consult with a health care provider about the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated, but should not require it.

“Our mass vaccination sites are a safe, welcoming place for pregnant New Yorkers to get the COVID-19 vaccine because of the state’s education and training for staff and administrators as well as access to onsite clinicians, if that is requested by the individual getting vaccinated,” Samantha Fuld, a spokesperson for the state health department, said in a statement.

Valchuis and others interviewed for this story said they have also received conflicting health and safety advice while making other types of decisions during pregnancy.

“Like, ‘We think you can take those, but we’re not sure if you can. And don’t take those, but we don’t really have any data on it,’” Valchuis said, mimicking the kind of health advice she sometimes received before giving birth to her daughter in October.

A lack of clinical trial data makes it difficult to provide pregnant people with safety information on everything from over-the-counter medications to hair dye, said Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, an OB/GYN at NYU Langone Health and director of global women’s health at the NYU School of Global Public Health.

“Clinical trials should always include pregnant people, but historically they have not,” Shirazian said.

She added that while there’s now sufficient evidence to say the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant people, “it’s hard to get people to change those old opinions.”

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