VICTORIA — Those who are pregnant in British Columbia have now been designated a priority population to receive COVID-19 vaccine.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says data show pregnant people experience severe illness from COVID-19 at a rate similar to those who are in their 50s.
Henry says prioritizing those 16 years and older who are pregnant for vaccination will help protect them, their babies and the wider community.
B.C. has recorded 697 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 132,353, along with one new death.
There are 7,161 active COVID-19 cases, with 486 people hospitalized.
More than 1.9 million vaccine doses have been administered so far in B.C.
Researchers have been examining the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women during the pandemic, with particular concerns about their respiratory system.
Dr. Deborah Money, a professor in the University of British Columbia's department of obstetrics and gynecology leading the national research project, said about 50 to 60 pregnant women are being diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. every week.
"What we see is there is an increased rate of hospitalization and, in fact, (intensive care unit) admission in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women of the same age group," she said in an interview.
There have been roughly 5,000 pregnancies across the country affected by COVID-19, Money added, and doctors are continuing to study the health of mothers and babies during their recovery.
The decision makes B.C. the latest province to announce vaccine eligibility for pregnant people, following Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.
Money said she and other doctors are hopeful pregnant people will follow the government's advice and get the vaccine.
"Pregnant women are always very careful and concerned about taking any medications," she said. "But we are aware of many pregnant women who want to be vaccinated and were upset they couldn't access the vaccine."
The United Food and Commercial Workers union local 1518 says its members who are grocery workers in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health authorities are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
It says workers will receive special information from their employers and the union about how they can register.
— By Nick Wells in Vancouver
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2021.