My Vaccine Why: My Decision to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine While Breastfeeding

My Vaccine Why: My Decision to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine While Breastfeeding

Jennifer Dyrseth, Port Angeles local and Olympic Medical Center Patient Financial Services Manager, shares about her decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine while on maternity leave – and still nursing her daughter.

Jennifer Dyrseth is a working mom to two-and-a-half-year-old Kenzie and six-month-old Khloe. When Khloe was just one month old, Jennifer qualified to receive her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine thanks to her job as a patient financial services manager at Olympic Medical Center.

Her decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine while breastfeeding didn’t come easy.

Jennifer sat down to talk with us about the process—both intellectually and emotionally—of deciding to get the vaccine during such an important time of her and Khloe’s lives.

What were your thoughts when you knew the vaccine was coming out and you were nursing Khloe?

I always want to do what’s best for my kids, of course. I want to make sure they’re safe and healthy, and that I’m safe and healthy so I can take care of them. I know there has been a lot of talk about what could go wrong with vaccines, and I wanted to make sure I was making the choice that was scientifically appropriate.

Jennifer’s daughter Khloe, whom she was nursing when she received her COVID-19 vaccine.

How did you go about making your decision about being vaccinated?

I decided to do all the research I possibly could. I talked to all of my doctors, the pediatricians, nurses, nationally board-certified lactation consultants—I talked to everybody. I wanted to do the right thing. I went to the Center for Disease Control’s website and the World Health Organization’s website, and I decided that getting vaccinated was going to be the best for my family.

What did you learn from talking to healthcare professionals and researching trusted sources?

I found that there’s a lot of rumors out there that aren’t true. I also found there’s not a lot of research since we’re doing this in real time, but there’s enough to say the risks involved with vaccination are a lot better than the risks involved with not getting vaccinated. That was important to me, especially as a mom and as someone with asthma.

As for data on nursing mothers, at the time there wasn’t a lot, but the data available showed there wasn’t an increased risk of anything for sure. With Khloe being a month old, my biggest worry was that my milk wouldn’t get the antibodies to her, but since January there’s been a couple of studies coming out pointing positive.

Did you have any fear or hesitation about getting vaccinated, even after doing research and talking to professionals?

Of course! It’s like walking home after watching a scary movie and wondering, “Oh my gosh, what if the monster pops out?” It’s irrational.

But I remember talking to my mom about it. She had me when she was young and the chicken pox vaccine came out when I was a kid. She shared with me that she didn’t get me vaccinated because [the vaccine] was too new. So of course, I got the chicken pox, and I recently saw a picture of me when I had them. I looked like a leper, and you could tell I was miserable. Now as an adult, I know it puts me at risk for shingles. So I asked my mom, “Why did you do that? Why didn’t you get me vaccinated?” She said she felt terrified. She didn’t have access to the resources then that I do now. She didn’t know any better. Having that conversation brought to light that this is really scary for a lot of people, but it shouldn’t be that scary because the information is out there.

Science is science. You’re studying changes that happen over time. That’s part of being open to science. If they can prove something, that’s great, and if they can disprove something, that’s just as great. We want to know.

What was going through your mind while getting your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Anytime you’re putting anything in your body when you’re nursing, knowing your child could have some of that pass through, you’re always going to second guess it, you’re always going to take a breath and say, “Okay is this the right thing for me? Is this the right things for my child? How is this going to affect them? How is this going to affect my life and their life?”

Jennifer’s daughters Khloe, left, and Kenzie, right

That initial holding your breath and wondering about the effects is hard. But that’s why I asked questions—and listened to the answers. It’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to be skeptical. But ultimately, you have to do what’s best for your kids, and that’s what it came back to for me.

This was a decision we made as a family. A head and a heart decision.

What advice would you give nursing mothers about where to look for information if they’re feeling fearful about getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

Doing your own research is the most important thing—and doing your research with trusted and verified sources. Go to the CDC, go to the World Health Organization, speak to your licensed medical providers. Don’t go to Facebook. Don’t go to Instagram. Go to actual health experts.

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines, visit the Olympic Medical Center COVID-19 Vaccine Information page, where you’ll find resources for starting your research, see testimonials, plus find information on vaccinations sites in Clallam County.

This was a decision we made as a family. A head and a heart decision.

Jennifer Dyrseth, OMC Patient Financial Manager & Mother