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Pregnant doctor and Scripps research scientist shares her COVID-19 vaccine experience

The local doctor hopes her experience will help other pregnant women and women of color who are considering whether or not to get the vaccine.

SAN DIEGO — As the vaccine rollout continues, there are a few populations expressing fear about getting it, including pregnant women. But, a local Scripps Research scientist is working to change that by sharing her own experience.

Dr. Toluwalase Ajayi was 32 weeks pregnant when she got her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. She has since received her second dose.

"It wasn't an easy decision, I'll be honest," Dr. Ajayi said.

Dr. Ajayi says choosing to get vaccinated while pregnant with her second child is something she agonized over.

"Poured over research, talked to my OB-GYN and friends who do clinical research as well, and at the end of the day, I had to decide what was best for me and my exposure," she said.

Ultimately, her decision was based on multiple factors. For starters, the Scripps Research clinician scientist is a frontline worker.

In addition, Dr. Ajayi is black, and statistics show a higher risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 among black people. 

Finally, pregnant women are also at increased risk if they get the disease.

"We know that pregnant women are 2-3 times more likely to die or be intubated," Dr. Ajayi said.

Dr. Ajayi says she wasn't just worried about herself, but her loved ones as well.

"I have a three and a half year old at home. Having this one and still not knowing when things are gonna let up, when we're gonna have enough people vaccinated to get herd immunity, anything I can do to protect my family makes me feel a lot more confident," she said.

Credit: Dr. Toluwalase Ajayi

Still, she is well aware of the fear associated with pregnant women getting the vaccine, in part because there isn't enough data available. She'd like to change that. Dr. Ajayi runs the Power Mom study, which collects information about what happens to women during pregnancy. She's hoping that will grow to include those who get vaccinated, as well as black women, who are underrepresented.

"And a lot of that has to do with the historical racial and consistent racism within the healthcare system," said Dr. Ajayi.

Dr. Ajayi's tweet about getting the vaccine received more than 2,000 likes.

As for any side effects, she had a sore arm, headache and some fatigue, but today is doing fine. Her advice for others: consider your personal risk factors, and talk to a doctor you trust.

“So you do the best you can with the facts you have and you make your decisions that way," she said.

At this point, experts don't believe either vaccine poses a risk to pregnant women.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have ongoing trials to gather more data.