Moana Research and the Immunisations Advisory Centre have been working together with Virologist Dr Natalie Netzler and Immunologist Chris Puli’uvea (PhD candidate) to deliver zoom fonos to provide our Pacific communities with clear information about the COVID-19 virus and vaccinations. In a bid to help break down the science through a combined presentation following a question-and-answer session, the fonos have so far engaged Pacific families during one focused on youth and another one for pregnant mothers. Below we share stories of those who made the decision to be vaccinated and what their experiences have been so far.
Josie Oloito’a Vaccination Pregnancy Story
Many pregnant women are understandably worried about getting the COVID-19 vaccination. But evidence shows that the vaccine is safe for both mother and baby in utero. Josie Oloito’a who is currently 25 weeks pregnant, shares her thoughts on why she chose to get vaccinated, her concerns of the vaccine whilst pregnant and the importance of encouraging our communities to get vaccinated.
How far along are you in your pregnancy and at what month did you get vaccinated?
I’m currently 25 weeks pregnant and I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at 22 weeks. I definitely experienced a sore arm, fatigue and a little headache but these cleared after 2 days. I have felt fine since and my recent scan and midwife appointments have been normal and healthy.
Why did you choose to get vaccinated?
I chose to get vaccinated because the reality is we’re still living through a pandemic and our babies have super vulnerable immune systems that usually aren’t even able to fight a flu or common cold on their own. I wanted to give my baby a better chance of being protected as I knew the effects of covid on pregnant women and unborn babies would be more adverse than others, and far more adverse than any effects of a vaccine. I also come from a big family and community where I’m around children under 12 and elders often and I wanted to protect them too. I knew my decision of whether or not to get vaccinated would also affect those vulnerable in my community and as Pasifika, we have a collectivist culture where the needs of the group come before our own so it felt right to do what was also best for my people.
Did you have any concerns and how did you address them?
Initially I was hesitant to get vaccinated while pregnant and had originally decided to wait until after I had given birth because at the time, I felt that the vaccine was still so new and I wasn’t convinced of its safety for pregnant women and unborn babies. This was interesting for me as prior to being pregnant, I had no reservations about getting the vaccine at all and was looking forward to when I would be able to book mine, and this was with little to no research on the vaccine itself. It wasn’t until the first delta community outbreak in Auckland that I truly felt baby and I were more unsafe being unvaccinated. Covid was back in the community and this strand was more contagious and aggressive than before. My fear and anxiety around catching covid while pregnant then far outweighed my doubts and concerns around being vaccinated. At this point, I made sure to ask questions to my midwives and GP and had seen enough resources from credible health organisations to know the information and research out there confirmed its safety for pregnant women, and even found it actually benefited unborn babies by allowing us mama to pass on antibodies. I may not know much but I do know I don’t know more than health professionals about health, so I listened to their advice and ultimately it just affirmed my gut feeling/intuition to get vaccinated, not just for me and baby but for the spaces we occupy and the communities we belong to. I went to a drive-in vaccination clinic the next day.
What message do you have for other pregnant women?
I understand there is a lot of hesitation with pregnant women and being vaccinated, I too shared these feelings once myself. I can only share from experience and values which may not reflect that of others, so my message to other pregnant women would just be to ensure you have all the facts and information you need so you can make the best decision for you and your family with what you know.
We are grateful to Josie for sharing her story. If you, or someone you know are pregnant, you can find further information about the COVID-19 vaccine here.
Chris and Natalie’s presentations can also be found on our Moana Research YouTube channel: