COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy: How discrepant public health discourses shape responsibility for fetal health

T. A. Manca, K. A. Top, J. E. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


Early in COVID-19 vaccine rollout, expert recommendations about vaccination while pregnant and breastfeeding changed rapidly. This paper addresses the (re)production of gendered power relations in these expert discourses and recommendations in Canada. We collected texts about COVID-19 vaccine use in pregnancy (N ​= ​52) that Canadian health organizations (e.g., professional societies, advisory groups, health authorities) and vaccine manufacturers made publicly available online. A discourse analysis was undertaken to investigate intertextuality (relations between texts), social construction (incorporation of assumptions about gender), and contradictions between and within texts. National expert recommendations varied in stating COVID-19 vaccines are recommended, should be offered, or may be offered, while manufacturer texts consistently stated there was no evidence. Provincial and territorial texts reproduced discrepancies between the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendations, including that COVID-19 vaccines should be versus may be offered in pregnancy. Our findings suggest gaps in data and discrepant COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, eligibility, and messaging limit guidance regarding vaccination in pregnancy. We argue that these discrepancies magnified the already common practice of deferring responsibility for the uncertainties of vaccination in pregnancy onto parents and healthcare providers. The deferral of responsibility could be reduced by harmonizing recommendations, regularly updating texts that describe evidence and recommendations, and prioritizing research into disease burden, vaccine safety, and efficacy before vaccine rollout.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100265
JournalSSM - Qualitative Research in Health
Publication statusPublished - Jun. 2023


  • Discourse analysis
  • Gender
  • Health communication
  • Immunization
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk


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