With Covid-19 vaccines made available to a wider section of the population, concerns are raised whether pregnant and lactating women can take the vaccine. Despite the Indian Government giving no clarity on vaccinating pregnant and lactating women, WHO Covid19 technical lead Dr Naresh Purohit said all international and national bodies representing women’s health supported vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
“There is no clarity from the Government of India. Neither Covaxin nor Covishield have been tested on pregnant and lactating women,” National Immunisation Programme Advisor Dr Purohit told Indian Flash.
He noted that live attenuated vaccines, such as the Rubella or HPV vaccines are not administered during pregnancies. However, other vaccines such as the influenza or Tdap vaccines are recommended during pregnancy as they protect mothers and their new-born by producing antibodies, he said. “The available Covid-19 vaccines used so far are not live attenuated vaccines. So, apart from theoretical risks, they are safe for use during pregnancy,” he said.
Dr Purohit notes that while the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a contraindication for pregnant and lactating women, recent data from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are mRNA vaccines, in pregnant mothers have shown no adverse effects on the foetus and pregnancy in the US.
The doctor explained that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, supported Astrazaneca vaccine, which is similar to Covishield, for use during pregnancy and lactation.
He stated that pregnant and lactating women could opt to have themselves vaccinated voluntarily. “If they opt for a vaccine, they should avail counselling from a medical practitioner to make an informed decision about potential risks,”Dr Purohit averred.
The renowned reproductive health expert also said that women tested positive for Covid-19 should take the vaccine four to eight weeks after recovery. Further, in areas where the prevalence of the second wave is high, two doses of the vaccine should be preferably taken before the third trimester. This is because of the risk of serious illness, need for ICU admission and increased mortality rate in Covid-19 positive pregnant women in this trimester, he added.
Other vaccinations should be given after an interval of 14 days. The most common reaction to the vaccine is fever for which they can safely take paracetamol, the doctor said.
Principal Investigator for National Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme Dr Purohit averred that women planning their fertility treatments should complete both vaccine doses before beginning treatment. There is no correlation between the day of the vaccination and menstrual cycles. As per the CDC, there is no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine causes fertility problems. There is also no need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a vaccine, he added.