I am an Oregon state employee, but from the looks of things, I won’t be for too long. Kate Brown, the governor of Oregon, has announced a mandate for all state executive agency employees to have full COVID-19 vaccination by October 18 or six weeks after full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whichever is later.
I am currently five months pregnant. Under this mandate, I stand to lose my job and health care if I don’t allow a needle in my arm, even though the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are unknown.
Yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are now recommending the vaccine for pregnant women. The CDC says the risks of COVID-19 for unborn children and their mothers are greater than the unknown risks of the vaccine. But how can they know, if the long-term risks of the vaccine are unknown? These COVID treatments are, after all, only several months old themselves.
According to the CDC, the percent of preterm births among women with COVID-19 was 12.17, compared to 9.91 percent among women without COVID-19. That’s only a difference of 2.26 percent. Further, these numbers are not broken down by age and underlying health factors. In fact, these numbers are quite small when compared to the relevance of other factors like stress.
Finding another financially comparable job at this point in my pregnancy will be virtually impossible. It is a terrible decision to make between financial security — a roof over my family’s heads, food on the table, being able to pay for doctor bills — and putting something in my body that could ultimately affect me and my unborn child in ways I do not know.
What I do know is that the CDC has reported no COVID-19 deaths for women my age (age 30-39) in the state of Oregon in either 2020 or 2021. What’s more, few have been hospitalized. At the highest point, the rate of weekly hospitalizations for women in their thirties even being hospitalized was just over seven out of 100,000. That is not even discerning between underlying health factors.
I understand my level of risk from the virus as a healthy 35-year-old woman and I understand that the long-term risk of the vaccine is unknown. My personal decision for my body and my unborn child is based on my conclusion that the unknown long-term risk of the vaccine outweighs the risk of the virus for someone my age at my level of health.
I was hesitant to write this, but as an Oregon state employee, the governor’s new mandate threatens me with “personnel consequences” up to termination. I am being forced to either contradict what I think is best for myself and my baby or face losing my job, income, and health coverage when I need it most.
In the state of Oregon, employers are compelled by law to cover abortion in health-care plans, but the state can terminate an employee for not getting a vaccine that is not fully vetted by the FDA. It’s worth noting the social and political pressure currently on the FDA to approve the vaccine soon. Hopefully, the rush will not diminish the necessary thoroughness of their evaluation and testing.
For my entire adult life, I have served the people. I gave 10 years of military service in the U.S. Army, serving as an information systems specialist in Fort Hood, Texas (during which I completed a 15-month deployment to Iraq), South Korea, and finally the White House Communications Agency, where I directly supported the office of the president of the United States, who at the time was President Obama.
Immediately after serving in the U.S. Army, I went on to public service in the state of Oregon as an IT systems administrator. I have been an Oregon public servant for seven years now. Most of those years have been under the governance of Kate Brown.
I find it unbelievable that someone could think abortion is simply a woman’s bodily “right to choose” while denying her right to choose whether to have a needle stuck in her arm. After 17 years, is this is how my public service should end?