Amidst the chaos of the pandemic, last week, our nation was rocked with the heavy news of Siti Sarah Raisuddin’s passing. She was one of our country’s most beloved singers.
At eight months pregnant, Siti Sarah, along with her husband and three children between the ages of six and 11, contracted COVID-19 after their maid tested positive for the virus. As her condition deteriorated, she experienced low levels of oxygen and had to be intubated. She was then put in an induced coma in order to deliver her baby via C-section. Sadly, Siti Sarah did not make it.
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As we mourn the loss of a celebrated figure, one important aspect of her passing comes to light – the fact Siti Sarah was not vaccinated when she contracted the deadly virus. In an interview, her husband Shahmira Muhamad, more popularly known as Shuib Sepahtu, said, “My wife wasn’t vaccinated. The infection had spread to most of her lungs and her organs could not function well.”
Just recently, our Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah shared that there is a rise in COVID-19 infections among pregnant women in Malaysia. As many as 3,396 cases were reported between March 2020 and June 2021.
It was also shared that a total of 146,759 pregnant mothers have registered for vaccination via the MySejahtera app, however, as Astro Awani reports, based on the estimated number of pregnant women a year, the percentage of pregnant women who have registered for vaccination is still low, at 40 per cent.
With the spread of the Delta variant, unvaccinated pregnant mothers are at a higher risk than ever before. Dr Imelda Balchin, a Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at KPJ Damansara Specialist Hospital shares that with Delta, the risk of requiring treatment in the ICU is three times higher, the risk of death is two times higher and medical studies in the UK shows that 99% of pregnant mothers are hospitalised due to not being vaccinated. She also states that the best way to save the lives of pregnant women is with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Afraid of the unknown
The reality now is that many pregnant women are hesitant about getting vaccinated due to the uncertainty of the potential challenges that may impact their unborn child. However, Dr. Imelda assures that the vaccine does not increase the risk of miscarriage or fetal malformations. “Millions of women around the world have gotten vaccinated during their pregnancy and there is no evidence of more miscarriages or more birth defects than we normally see,” she shares.
Globally, there is an urgent call for the immunisation of pregnant women. In the USA, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky says, “It has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people. Anyone who’s breastfeeding or thinking about becoming pregnant should also be immunised.”
According to the CDC, the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy, and evidence regarding the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination during pregnancy has been growing.
If you are pregnant and still on the fence as to whether you should get vaccinated or not, click here for all that you need to know.