COVID-19 Vaccinations: Provider spotlight

When Dr. Kelly Klocek came to her appointment for her second COVID-19 vaccine, she brought a very special guest with her. Her three month old son, Gabriel, got an inside look at the vaccination process at OMH. Dr. Klocek, who works in the emergency department at OMH and is presently out on maternity leave, is planning to return to work in the next month. Even though she is currently breastfeeding Gabriel, she made the decision to get her COVID-19 vaccine in preparation for her return to work and to help get back to “normal” life. “I’m an ER doctor, so when I work I’m exposed on a regular basis. My in-laws are high risk, my parents have not seen their grandbabies in over a year,” said Dr. Klocek. 
When asked why she decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine while breastfeeding, Dr. Klocek explained that “The American College of OB-GYNs, ACOG, recommends it, says that it’s safe. The American College of Pediatricians also says, look, it’s safe, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t get it. There’s no biologically plausible mechanism by which it’s going to cause problems for the baby.” Dr. Klocek further explained that she doesn’t think a vaccine for someone as young as Gabriel will be approved for at least a year, if not longer, and she’s hoping to pass some antibodies onto her baby. 
“When I’m breastfeeding, I’m spending five hours a day within inches of his face. If I get coronavirus, even if the vaccine doesn’t give him any protection from the virus itself, reducing my risk of getting it reduces his risk of getting it,” said Dr. Klocek.  “The studies they’ve done on breastfeeding moms who have had coronavirus, if they mask properly and wash their hands and everything, they can continue breastfeeding pretty safely, but that requires me to wear a mask every time I nurse him and then hand him off to somebody else for the rest of the day. So the only time I’d get to spend with my baby, while I’m infectious from coronavirus, would be while actively nursing. It means I don’t get to play with him – I mean I’d get out of diaper changes, that’s kinda great – but other than that, I don’t get to play with him, I don’t get to bond with him, and that’s not good at any age, but especially at three months old. You want to enjoy this time, not miss ten days of it because you’re infected with coronavirus.”
Dr. Klocek suggests that anyone who is hesitant to receive the vaccine, even if they are not pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with trusted healthcare providers about their concerns. “Look at who’s choosing to get it. Look at the overwhelming number of physicians who are choosing to get this vaccine, who are begging for this vaccine. Find other people who you trust their medical judgment, and ask them. Look at the professional societies, ask questions. If someone’s telling you that there’s something scary or dangerous about the vaccine, check out their credentials too. And if they’re telling you something opposite from what the professional societies are saying, from physicians that you trust are saying, figure out why.”
Dr. Klocek added that “There’s no shame in making an informed decision that disagrees with me, but make sure it’s an informed decision, not a scared decision.” While receiving the COVID-19 vaccine was the right decision for her and her family, she acknowledges that it may not be for everyone. Dr. Klocek advises all pregnant and breastfeeding moms consult with their doctors before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Pregnant and nursing mothers were not included in the initial COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials and she recommends reviewing guidance from The American College of OB-GYN and The American College of Pediatricians to learn more about receiving the vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding. 

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While the COVID-19 vaccines have a similar safety profile to other vaccines recommended by the CDC, there are individual conditions for which we do not have enough information. For people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or immunocompromised, we encourage you to discuss your situation with your healthcare provider before scheduling your vaccination appointment. For persons with a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines or medications, we strongly encourage you to discuss your situation with your healthcare provider before scheduling your vaccination appointment.