Since the advent of the various vaccines to combat the COVID pandemic, there has been much talk about immunisation. Due to the nature of this disease and its rapid spread, there has been a lot of ambiguity in the development of treatments. This is especially true when the discussion turns to pregnant and lactating women. This is because of the unique nature of this subset of the population which involves the interrelated immune systems of the mother and child.
Although the propensity for pregnant women being infected by COVID is about the same as any other group. It has been observed that pregnant women are more vulnerable to having more severe forms of the disease; this has been largely linked to physiological change to a woman’s immune system to accommodate the growing foetus.
Are You Eligible?
Over the past few months more research and study has been done to evaluate the eligibility, safety and efficacy of these vaccines in pregnant and lactating women, and of course the effects it may have on a foetus or new-born.
This dilemma requires a nuanced approach.
Is It Safe To Take The Vaccine During Pregnancy?
Well, the fact of the matter is further research is needed.
Since none of the vaccine developed for COVID use live viruses, it is generally considered safe. However, further testing and research is necessary in this matter for confirmation.
Furthermore, if a patient has already taken the first dose and later finds out that they are pregnant, they are advised to continue the pregnancy.
The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) has recommended that COVID vaccine should be given to pregnant women. This is because the risk of getting infected with COVID resulting in mortality seems to be higher than the risk due to the side effects of the vaccine.
Soon pregnant women may be allowed to take the vaccine if they have a letter of approval from their gynaecologist.
Is It Safe To Take The Vaccine While Lactating?
Experts now widely agree that it safe for lactating women to be vaccinated against COVID, although further study is needed.
Many states across India are now allowing walk-in vaccinations against COVID to lactating women.
It is generally recommended to wait a period of 42 days after giving birth to be vaccinated, but this is not always necessary. After being vaccinated, there does not appear to be any risk to the new-born, and there are no specific precautions to be taken for breastfeeding either.
Effects of maternal vaccination on Foetus/neonate?
Studies so far indicate that both maternal infection due to COVID and vaccination against COVID during pregnancy, do not affect foetal development and do not result in any teratogenicity. The same is true for lactating mothers and their new-borns.
COVID tests performed on vaginal secretions and breast milk are negative even in mothers who test serologically positive for COVID. This is good news as it minimizes a new-borns exposure to the disease.
Furthermore, new research studies indicate that the mother is able to pass on passive immunity to her baby after having an immune response to COVID, either by natural infection or via immunisation.
This occurs through the transfer of certain antibodies either, through the umbilical cord or through breast milk.
Although further research is needed in this field, the general consensus among experts is that the benefits of COVID vaccination far outweigh the risks. However, it is still recommended to speak to you doctor and make informed decision in this matter. Till then stay safe and stay indoors.
- FOGSI Position Statement COVID Vaccination For Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women. https://www.fogsi.org/wp-content/uploads/covid19/fogsi-statement-on-covid-vaccination-in-pregnancy-and-bf.pdf.