Despite the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s clear instructions that COVID shots should not be administered to pregnant and lactating mothers, the Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Society of India (FOGSI) has said obstetricians and gynaecologists and women’s health care providers should be allowed to do so with preparations to manage side-effects.
“There is a need to prevent further waves and the vaccine is the best and long-term solution to this. This protection should extend to pregnant and lactating women. The very real benefits of vaccinating pregnant and lactating women seem to far outweigh any theoretical and remote risks of vaccination,” said FOGSI chairperson Dr Alpesh Gandhi.
Currently there is no data on immunization of pregnant and lactating women with Covishield or Covaxin.
United States’ public health agency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on its website that pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared with non-pregnant people. Severe illness includes illness that requires hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator or special equipment to breathe, or illness that results in death. “Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 might be at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, compared with pregnant women without COVID-19”.
A study on 131 women who were vaccinated with the mRNA vaccine (a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases), published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, showed that COVID vaccination generated a robust immune response in pregnant and lactating women. This response was found to be equivalent to the general population. Additionally, protective antibodies were also isolated in umbilical cord blood and breast milk, implying protection to the foetus and newborn.
“The method of administering and monitoring the vaccine and the schedule of vaccination should be the same for pregnant and lactating women as for the general population”, said a FOGSI position statement on COVID vaccination for breastfeeding and lactating women, issued on April 30.