Understanding COVID-19 vaccine uptake during pregnancy: 'Hesitance', knowledge, and evidence-based decision-making.Vaccine. 2022 04 26; 40(19):2755-2760.V
A key mitigation strategy to the COVID-19 pandemic has been the development and roll-out of vaccines. However, pregnant and lactating people were not included in initial vaccine trials and this population is hesitant to receive the vaccine, despite contrary recommendations from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding the reasons behind this hesitancy is vital to promote vaccine uptake.
We surveyed pregnant people in California from December 2020 to January 2021 (n = 387) to describe cognitions and decision-making regarding COVID-19 vaccination. Using descriptive, regression-based analyses, we examined rates of planned uptake and reasoning among individuals who reported COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
Overall, the pregnant Californians that we surveyed were aware of the COVID-19 vaccines. Of 387 participants, 43% reported planning to get the vaccine as soon as possible. The remaining 57% were hesitant: 27% responded that they would not receive the vaccine. Some demographic features did predict more COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, particularly younger age (AOR = 0.95, p = 0.025) and living in a less urban context (AOR = 0.80, p = 0.041). Essential worker status also was associated with vaccine hesitancy. Having had, or intending to have, a flu vaccine was negatively associated with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy (p < 0.001). The most commonly reported reason for COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy was "I don't know enough about the vaccine." Low levels of self-reported knowledge were highly predictive of hesitancy.
Terms like "vaccine hesitance" and "anti-vax" do not adequately characterize decisions regarding delaying COVID-19 vaccination. Rather, these decisions are largely based on the lack of knowledge about the impacts of vaccination on pregnancy, fetal development, and later child wellbeing. This lack of knowledge should be countered by conversations between individual healthcare providers and their pregnant patients, and better inclusion of pregnant people and children in vaccine trials.