COMAL COUNTY, Texas — Roughly 200,000 Texans are expected to receive coronavirus vaccines this week, but many questions from the public remain, including whether a pregnant woman should get the vaccine.
Health experts in Comal County took time to address those common questions about with an online session broadcast via Facebook live this week. You can watch the full panel discussion on the City of New Braunfels Facebook page.
One of the topics that came up in the hour-long video is if pregnant women should plan to get the coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Emily Briggs explained that the vaccine cannot change DNA, nor can it cause any genetic changes.
She encourages women to think about the potential health impact if they were to pick up the virus in the community.
“The important things to consider for any woman who is pregnant and considering having this vaccine, you must consider the community transmission level. You have to consider the risk of contracting COVID yourself without the vaccine,” Briggs said. “You also have to consider the risk of fetal complications if mom gets infected. So all of these things, it's not just should I get the vaccine or not because of the vaccine itself, but all of these other considerations must be made.”
Briggs also said that, so far, the science does not show any infertility arising due to the vaccine. In fact, several women who were part of the initial vaccine studies became pregnant afterward.
They’re being monitored to see if the pregnancy stays healthy over the full term.
“The science at least is telling us that this is a safe vaccine, but we cannot say 100% until it's out in the community,” Briggs said.
Vaccine availability varies widely between Texas communities.
People currently eligible to get a dose are not required to find a local provider, but there can be some advantages of waiting until a facility in your county receives doses.
In Comal County, the medical community has received, and already given, 4,100 coronavirus vaccine doses.
Meanwhile, mass vaccination sites are opening in nearby San Antonio. The Alamodome alone is slated to administer 9,000 doses per week indefinitely.
While demand for those appointments is still sky-high, Comal County or other area residents who are frontline workers, or those over 65 or with specific health conditions, would be eligible to get the vaccine in a neighboring community such as San Antonio.
A local health expert explained that no matter where you decide to get a vaccine, every provider will have a limited number of doses.
“Keep looking at those state websites and knowing where that vaccine is and if they have a way to get that vaccine. But, I will tell you: The supplies are still very, very limited,” said Cheryl Fraser, Comal County's public health director.
“The caveat to members of the community going elsewhere for that first dose is that they need to plan to go to that same facility or office for their second dose,” Briggs added.
One thing the vaccine providers have noticed in New Braunfels is sometimes they will receive extra doses in their vaccine shipments.
Overall, the surprise doses are exciting for providers because they can vaccinate more people than anticipated; however, Briggs is thinking ahead. She is concerned that when the second-dose shipments come in, there will be no guarantee of receiving the same number of extra doses, again.
She said she has reached out to the state to try to find a solution, making sure everyone will get their second dose on time.
The panel of medical experts also underscored their efforts to advocate for as many doses to be shipped to Comal County as possible.
Gentrea Hendrickson, the emergency preparedness coordinator for the Comal County Public Health Department, explained that the state is deciding who gets how much of the vaccine and when.
She also believes the manufacturers play a role in the kind of shipments Texas receives.
“The estimated amount of vaccines that Pfizer, Moderna believed they could manufacture, that's actually fallen a bit below that,” Hendrickson said. “There's not quite as many vaccines as we expected to be available. We're doing all we can to try and advocate to get more vaccines for our community.”
The Comal County Public Health Department says they will be able to handle thousands of doses once larger shipments are allocated to the area.
Nursing students have even volunteered to help administer these vaccines once the doses come in.