Vaccine Warnings Compound Declining Delivery Charges


ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA — On a March night in 2021, the TV information shared a warning from the Ministry of Well being: “It’s endorsed for pregnant girls to not get vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19.”

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A 32-year-old lady, watching the printed simply moments after rejoicing on the two clear traces on her dwelling being pregnant check, started to panic.

Оyunkhand Bayartsog had gotten her first shot, as required by her employer, earlier than realizing she was pregnant — or that there might be any battle between the 2, each of which had been deliberate for months. The primary physician she known as suggested her to have an abortion; she known as 5 extra, hoping for a special response, however none may guarantee her that every one can be nicely.

“As there haven’t been any newborns globally because the coronavirus vaccination began, it has not been studied but,” she remembers of their warnings. “That is new, so nobody can assure {that a} wholesome toddler can be born.”

For the primary 4 months of Mongolia’s COVID-19 vaccination marketing campaign, the Ministry of Well being included pregnant girls amongst teams that shouldn’t be vaccinated. Even when the warnings had been lifted on Might 27, 2021, primarily based on worldwide analysis confirming the vaccine’s security, public fears continued — resulting in a plummeting start fee and spike in maternal deaths.

“Folks principally belief adverse info unfold by means of associates and social media,” says Dr. Munkhtsetseg Davaatseren, dean of the Obstetrics and Gynecology School on the Mongolian Nationwide College of Medical Sciences and member of the Ministry of Well being’s medical advisory workforce on coronavirus care. “When listening to what professionals and docs need to say, they often take condescending or defensive attitudes. This occurs not solely in Mongolia but in addition globally.”

Graphics by Matt Haney, GPJ

Graphics by Matt Haney, GPJ

Graphics by Matt Haney, GPJ

As COVID-19 vaccinations grew to become out there around the globe, public well being officers supplied contradictory recommendation for pregnant girls. By mid-2021, 47 international locations, together with Mongolia’s northern neighbor, Russia, suggested in opposition to the vaccine; 22 international locations, together with the USA, explicitly really useful vaccinations for them; and the remainder, together with Mongolia’s different neighbor, China, remained impartial.

By March 2022, solely 16 international locations nonetheless really useful that pregnant girls keep away from vaccination, whereas 104 international locations really useful vaccinations, in line with the COVID-19 Maternal Immunization Tracker, a software developed by the Berman Institute of Bioethics & Middle for Immunization Analysis at Johns Hopkins College.

Mongolia’s plummeting start fee is a setback for a rustic that has spent 20 years working to enhance this metric.

A March 11, 2021 message posted on the Ministry of Well being’s official Fb web page included pregnant girls among the many teams that ought to keep away from the COVID-19 vaccine.

In 2005, the nation’s start fee had fallen to 1.95, the bottom in its recorded historical past, resulting from components together with poverty, well being challenges and regional conflicts, in line with the Nationwide Statistics Workplace of Mongolia. Involved concerning the long-term impacts of a declining start fee on the nation’s labor drive, financial progress and social welfare system, the federal government instituted pro-birth insurance policies, together with particular awards for moms with 4 or extra kids, and money allowances of three,000 Mongolian togrogs ($1) per baby that 12 months. The per-child cost grew to twenty,000 togrogs ($7) in 2012, then was raised to 100,000 togrogs ($34.50) in April 2020 in response to the pandemic.

Regardless of these efforts, the start fee fell to a 14-year low in 2021. In keeping with the Middle for Well being Improvement, the variety of abortions additionally decreased, indicating that households had been delaying slightly than terminating pregnancies.

On the identical time, the maternal mortality fee was additionally 3 times increased in 2021 in comparison with 2020, with near 70% of maternal deaths stemming from COVID-19 issues. The medical group has linked this spike to the nation’s low vaccination fee amongst pregnant girls and the misunderstanding that the virus was no extra harmful than a standard chilly, Munkhtsetseg says.


Oyuntugs Ider cares for her 2-month-old daughter. Relieved to have a wholesome new child after getting the COVID-19 vaccine whereas pregnant, she has remained watchful for unwanted side effects.

Weighing the dangers of vaccination versus contracting COVID-19 whereas pregnant precipitated excessive nervousness for girls like Oyuntugs Ider.

“As a result of I heard about a number of moms dying of COVID-19 earlier than, I cried out of worry after I first got here in shut contact with the virus,” the 33-year-old says.

Her choice felt simpler after the native hospital in Umnugovi province, which has led the nation with a 91.6% vaccination fee, reached out to reply her questions and urge her to get vaccinated.

One other lady who confronted a troublesome choice is 26-year-old Saruul Tserendorj, who found she was pregnant in December 2021 after having obtained three vaccine doses — together with one a number of weeks earlier. She opted to finish her being pregnant in January, despite the fact that the Ministry of Well being had stopped warning pregnant girls in opposition to vaccinations eight months earlier.

“I used to be afraid that it’d result in giving start to a deformed toddler,” she says. “Many individuals had been commenting on my Fb that I would give start to a child with a cleft lip or a cleft palate, so I mentioned with my husband and determined to undergo abortion.”


Oyunkhand Bayartsog took a blood check after recovering from a gentle case of COVID-19 close to the tip of her being pregnant.

They have already got one toddler, born throughout the first 12 months of the pandemic, and nonetheless plan to have extra kids — after the pandemic is over.

“My husband calmed me down by saying that as we’re younger folks, we may have a wholesome child in peaceable occasions with out something to fret about sooner or later,” Saruul says.

This sentiment provides authorities officers hope that final 12 months was a short lived setback of their two-decade effort to encourage childbearing.

Oyunkhand determined in opposition to abortion after one physician — out of the seven she in the end consulted — suggested her that among the many unknown unwanted side effects of vaccination on a fetus, one end result might be stronger immunity for the infant.

“This gave me hope to provide start to my baby,” she says, including that she additionally obtained her second shot whereas pregnant.

After contracting a gentle case of the illness throughout her third trimester, she welcomed a wholesome child lady in November 2021. However earlier than they might depart the hospital to hitch her husband and two older kids at dwelling, she says, she needed to recuperate — not solely bodily but in addition from the psychological and emotional stress she had endured.

She says, “I simply wished to relax and take a deep breath.”


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