SickKids and Scarborough Health Network’s VaxFacts Clinic team up to bring focused COVID-19 vaccine consultation to pregnant and breastfeeding people
TORONTO – The COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the VaxFacts Clinic at Scarborough Health Network (SHN) are working together to provide focused consultation on the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding people across Ontario. This initiative reflects the long-time partnership between SickKids and SHN to deliver leading services for families and communities.
Starting April 4, SickKids’ consult service is opening to pregnant and breastfeeding individuals who may have questions about getting their first, second or third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Initial appointments will be booked with a SickKids registered nurse to answer questions on general vaccination safety information. Patients needing individual medical guidance will receive a follow-up phone consultation with SHN physicians and obstetricians from the VaxFacts Clinic, the first of its kind in Canada.
“We’re thrilled to be able to expand our service to support these individuals, many of whom have questions about whether their own vaccination could affect their baby either during pregnancy or breastfeeding,” says Dr. Julia Orkin, Medical Lead for the SickKids COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service and Staff Paediatrician at SickKids. “Partnering with our adult health-care colleagues will deliver the robust vaccination information and guidance that people need.”
“Since the onset of the pandemic, VaxFacts has been providing compassionate medical advice to individuals across Canada, including pregnant and breastfeeding individuals. We are proud to extend our service to support SickKids with this new dedicated stream,” says Dr. Latif Murji, Physician Lead for SHN’s VaxFacts Clinic. “As we continue to navigate new COVID-19 variants and as life begins to return to some normalcy, it is now more important than ever to close the gap on the remaining unvaccinated population. This partnership with our partners at SickKids helps to ensure the most vulnerable groups have a safe virtual space to receive information so they can make an informed decision.”
Pregnant people at higher risk for severe disease and outcomes from COVID-19
According to ICES data, as of March 6, 79 per cent of pregnant people in Ontario had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 90.6 per cent of all adults. In addition, as of March 6, only 37 per cent of pregnant people have a third dose of the vaccine, compared with 58 per cent of all adults. Pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe disease and complications from COVID-19 that can impact both themselves and their unborn babies. Children’s hospitals have reported increases in newborns presenting with COVID-19, highlighting the importance of vaccination during pregnancy to ensure antibodies are passed on to babies.
Dr. Tali Bogler, Maternal Lead for the Toronto Regional Maternal Child Health Network and Chair of Family Medicine Obstetrics at St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto, has supported training and provided resources for the SickKids COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service team.
“Pregnancy can be a vulnerable time and the pandemic has brought even more anxieties and stresses for many pregnant people. One of these stresses is access to reliable, up-to-date, evidence-based information,” says Bogler. “By offering COVID-19 vaccination consult services, we hope to empower pregnant and breastfeeding people with information they can trust to make a decision about vaccination for themselves and their families.”
SickKids and VaxFacts have fielded over 3,300 calls about COVID-19 vaccines
The SickKids consult service launched in October 2021 as a nurse-led, by-appointment phone service that provides safe, judgment-free spaces to have open conversations about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Since its launch in April 2021, SHN’s VaxFacts Clinic has provided parents, families and vaccine-hesitant individuals the opportunity to schedule a one-on-one phone call directly with an experienced SHN doctor, ask their questions, and make an informed decision. Recently, in February 2022, VaxFacts was enhanced with a stream to allow individuals from the Black community to speak with a Black physician, an option that is also available to pregnant or breastfeeding callers.
Together, these services are providing Ontarians convenient, accessible, and safe opportunities for the most at-risk populations.
Both services are available in multiple languages, using over-the-phone language interpretation. Since their respective launches, the services have taken over 3,300 calls combined. Today, they continue to field questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and the frequently asked questions they receive and other helpful resources are available on AboutKidsHealth and the VaxFacts website.
The SickKids COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service and SHN’s VaxFacts Clinic are supported by the Government of Ontario.
About The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally. Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. SickKids is a founding member of Kids Health Alliance, a network of partners working to create a high quality, consistent and coordinated approach to paediatric health care that is centred around children, youth and their families. SickKids is proud of its vision for “Healthier Children. A Better World.”
About Scarborough Health Network
Across our three hospitals and eight satellite sites, Scarborough Health Network (SHN) is shaping the future of care. Our many programs and services are designed around the needs of one of Canada’s most vibrant and diverse communities. We are home to Ontario’s largest nephrology program, as well as the designated cardiac care centre for Scarborough and surrounding communities to the east. We are proud to be a community-affiliated teaching site for the University of Toronto and partner with a number of other universities and colleges, helping to train the next generation of health care professionals. Learn more at shn.ca.
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
Scarborough Health Network