More Scared of COVID Than Rumors, These Pregnant Orthodox Women Chose to Get the Jab
The message is getting out, say N.Y.-area health-care workers: Between ‘going on a vent’ and getting a shot – it’s best for expecting moms to avoid the worst-case scenario of COVID-19 infection
In mid-January, six months into her first pregnancy, Chaya Mehlman, an Orthodox Jewish woman who works as a nurse, got her first COVID-19 vaccine. But it was far from an easy decision: It took her over a month and dozens of consultations with family, friends, doctors, rabbis and other women to finally take the shot.
While “researchers have studies planned in people who are pregnant,” the initial vaccine trials could not include these individuals, the guidelines say. “CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have safety monitoring systems in place to capture information about vaccination during pregnancy and will closely monitor reports.”
Still, there are many people who have stoked unfounded fears about the vaccines supposedly causing infertility, and anti-vaxxers have even claimed the shots could lead to miscarriages. But medical professionals and state officials in America are attempting to reassure women that the shot they can get – the mRNA vaccine which does not contain the live virus – is safe for them and their unborn babies.
“For that reason, I think over the last two weeks, the obstetricians who were not necessarily pushing the patients to do it, have changed that message and really have been pushing their patients to get vaccinated,” he added.
On Friday morning, Stern and his team set up a special clinic and invited pregnant women from the area to get vaccinated. That day, over 150 of them showed up; another 100 received the shots at CHEMED on Sunday.
Before getting pregnant, Mehlman, 26, who goes by the nickname C.B., worked as a night-shift nurse in the oncology unit of a New York City hospital. When the coronavirus pandemic broke out last March, she found herself working long shifts and tending to almost three times as many patients as she had been assigned to before.
After her husband lost his job in the entertainment industry due to the pandemic, Mehlman had to keep working. When she found out she was expecting her first child, she was torn between her professional duties and her responsibility to keep her unborn baby safe.
“I was on the verge of quitting my job because of it,” she said. “I was starting to get nervous for myself.” Ultimately, Mehlman was placed on desk duty, where she can avoid direct interaction with patients during the remainder of her pregnancy.
When the vaccine first became available to health-care workers, Mehlman found herself faced with a dilemma. Her husband did not feel that she should get vaccinated, but her doctor encouraged it, while acknowledging the fact that not much information was available about the possible risks.
“I was crying and I came to work all emotional because I wanted to get it, my husband didn’t want me to get it, I’m terrified of COVID-19 and pregnant women are at a 5-percent increased chance of getting COVID-19,” she recalls. “I called a rabbi that my husband highly respects, and he said ‘follow your doctor.’”
It was only after she spoke with another pregnant, Orthodox health worker at her hospital that she made the decision.
“If a woman at my stage of pregnancy ends up with COVID-19, or ends up on a vent, there is a chance that neither the baby nor the individual are getting out of that,” Mehlman said. “So why risk both?”
Another Orthodox nurse, Joelle Harari-Chadow, told Haaretz that she too “thought about the pros and cons very heavily” before getting vaccinated.