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New research into pregnancy and COVID vaccines

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In the original trials for the mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna, not Astra Zeneca, little research was done on pregnant women. That’s about to change.

The federal government is investing $1.3 Million into a national study on the impacts of the mRNA vaccines across all 10 provinces and territories. The funds are being split between the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) and the Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group. Even though pregnant women were originally excluded, anecdotal evidence is showing that the vaccines are safe for pregnant and lactating women. But more defined research is needed.

“We are asking pregnant and breastfeeding individuals in all 10 provinces and three territories to sign-up for the registry, after which they will be invited to fill out a survey,” says study lead researcher Dr. Deborah Money, Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of British Columbia. “Through this registry and survey, we will monitor the safety of the various vaccines for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding. We will also study whether the vaccines are more effective – or less so – in this group. It is important that these data become available to pregnant and breastfeeding individuals so that they are able to make an informed choice about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.”

This project is being conducted in partnership with vaccine surveillance efforts across Canada, including the Canadian Vaccine Safety Network (CANVAS), a national platform which assesses vaccine safety during the implementation of vaccine campaigns across Canada.

The second study will link information collected from the Better Outcomes Registry & Network (BORN) Ontario Registry, which collects data from every baby born in Ontario, with the province’s vaccination registry from the Ontario Ministry of Health (COVaxON).

“We will be monitoring the health of mothers and their babies, comparing individuals who received a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy, or just before, with those who did not,” explains study lead researcher Dr. Deshayne Fell, Scientist at the CHEO Research Institute and Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa. “We will also assess the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy by looking at the number of people who have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”

What’s the Difference Between the mRNA and J&J and AstraZeneca Vaccines?

The AstraZeneca and to a lesser degree, the J&J vaccines have come under some contrioversry due to blood clots in women that have lead to deaths. This hasn’t been seen with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccies. So what’s the difference?

The J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines are based on more traditional vaccines. They use what’s called an adenovirus, which is a different virus from COVID-19, that has been manipulated so it won’t cause illness. Adenoviruses are akin to the common cold. The idea is that this route kicks the body’s immune system into gear to fight COVID-19. While they are effective, it seems there are greater risks to women.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA types, which uses the actual COVID-19 virus, but it has been manipulated in a different way. This technology uses messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), which is a molecule that provides cells with genetic instructions for making proteins that are needed for numerous cellular functions in the body, including for energy and immune defence. This is a new technology that prior to the pandemic, had never been approved for vaccines in humans.

Although the mRNA vaccines seem to be new, they’ve been in research and development for over 20 years with lots of other clinical data behind them. So the technology has been around for a while, but the inventors were having a tough time convincing big pharma companies to try it out.

You might also be interested in this article on the decline of the number of babies being born.


  • Alex Hurst is a writer for HUM@Nmedia covering Optimyz and Silver magazines in print and digital editions and is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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