In January 2023, almost two years after the COVID-19 vaccines were authorized for the general Ivorian population, the Government of Côte d'Ivoire authorized the Pfizer vaccine for pregnant women. Qualitative research with 214 adults (including pregnant women) in three Ivorian cities in November 2022 revealed that most participants knew that the COVID-19 vaccine had not been recommended for pregnant women. Some participants felt that the policy change alone would be enough to motivate pregnant women to get vaccinated, but others felt that it would be difficult to convince pregnant women that the vaccine is safe for them and their babies. Pregnant women who participated in the study expressed a preference for waiting until after giving birth to get vaccinated against COVID-19, to be safe. They viewed the COVID-19 vaccine as risky during pregnancy but seemed unaware of the heightened risks that COVID-19 illness poses to pregnant women and babies. Pregnant participants stated that if they believed that the COVID-19 vaccine was good for the baby they would put aside their fears and get vaccinated. Reframing the conversation around the dangers of COVID-19 for pregnant women and their babies and positioning the COVID-19 vaccine as safe during pregnancy and protective, both during pregnancy and afterwards, could encourage uptake among this important segment of the population. Potential strategies to reinforce perceptions of COVID-19 vaccine safety for pregnant women include frequent and consistent messaging through both interpersonal and mass media channels; leveraging prenatal consultations and the relationship between health workers and pregnant women for both counseling and vaccination; and engaging influential others to support pregnant women in the decision to accept vaccination against COVID-19. Positive testimonials may help combat rumors that the vaccine negatively affects fertility and reproductive health, which could help to foster positive attitudes towards the vaccine before a woman even becomes pregnant and encourage broad vaccination among women of reproductive age.
Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Côte d’Ivoire; Pregnancy; Vaccine acceptance; Vaccine hesitancy.
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