Edmonton

'Get vaccinated': Pregnant Edmonton woman who got COVID has message for expectant mothers

After contracting COVID-19 once already earlier in her pregnancy, an Edmonton woman doesn’t want to take any chances catching the virus again.

'It’s not a great experience, especially while pregnant'

Danika Jorgensen-Skakum, right, got the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine last Monday. She is pictured with her partner Lindsey Jorgensen-Skakum, left. (Submitted by Danika Jorgensen-Skakum)

Pregnant with her first child, Danika Jorgensen-Skakum was careful not to leave herself exposed to COVID-19.

She was vigilant about following the public health protocols and said she barely left the house — only going out for medical appointments. 

Despite her precautions, in December, just a few weeks after finding out she was pregnant, Jorgensen-Skakum tested positive for COVID-19.

"I hadn't even gone out for groceries or gone into any stores and I still contracted the virus," she said. "It was a pretty scary time for my partner and my family and community." 

Now 29 weeks pregnant, Jorgensen-Skakum got her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine last Monday. 

Getting immunized while pregnant was not a decision she made lightly. 

"I'm part of a lot of moms' groups ... there is a lot of conflict over whether to get the vaccine," said the University of Alberta PhD student.

But rising COVID-19 cases and variant cases in Alberta, coupled with reports of a wave of pregnant people landing in intensive care units during the third wave in Ontario, tipped the balance for her.

She's also encouraging other pregnant people to get vaccinated.

"After already having COVID, it's not a great experience, especially while pregnant," said Jorgensen-Skakum, now in her third trimester. "I know that if my breathing was compromised it would really affect me in this last push."

She doesn't know what the long-term impacts might be, if there are any.

On March 30, Alberta opened up appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone eligible in Phase 2B, including people born between 1957 and 2005 (ages 16 to 64) with certain high-risk underlying health issues, including pregnancy.

Vaccines not tested on pregnant people

Alberta Health and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) say that currently available vaccines have not been tested on individuals who may be pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding. 

But women who are pregnant and get COVID-19 have additional and very serious risks compared to women who aren't pregnant, the SOGC has found.

"We're hearing all these stories coming from Ontario about pregnant women being intubated, I mean I definitely don't want that," Jorgensen-Skakum said. 

Even after getting her first shot of the vaccine, Jorgensen-Skakum remains vigilant about COVID-19 protocols.

"I don't feel like I can relax at all even with the vaccine," she said. 

"I really, really encourage people to get vaccinated and to follow COVID protocols if pregnant … for the dangers to your health and baby's health and for other people in our communities as well.

"Raising our babies happens in our community and I want our baby to have the benefit of everybody that I live around."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thandiwe Konguavi

Reporter/editor

Thandiwe Konguavi is an award-winning journalist, born in Zimbabwe. She is a reporter/editor at CBC Edmonton. Reach her at thandiwe.konguavi@cbc.ca. Follow her on Twitter @cbcthandiwe.

With files from Georgie Smyth

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