New Delhi: The Union health ministry has issued fresh guidelines for administering the Covid-19 vaccine to pregnant women, stating that pregnancy does not increase the risk of infection.
“Most pregnant women will be asymptomatic or have a mild disease, but their health may deteriorate rapidly and that might affect the foetus too. It is important that they take all precautions to protect themselves from acquiring Covid-19, including taking vaccination against Covid-19. It is therefore advised that a pregnant woman should take Covid-19 vaccines,” the health ministry said in a statement on Monday.
The ministry said that Covid-19 vaccines available are safe and vaccination protects pregnant women against Covid-19 illness or disease. Like any medicine, a vaccine may have side effects which are normally mild. After getting the vaccine jab, she can get a mild fever, pain at the injection site or feel unwell for 1-3 days. The long-term adverse effects and safety of the vaccine for foetus and child is not established yet. Very rarely (one in 100,000-500,000), pregnant women may experience some of the following symptoms within 20 days after getting the Covid-19 vaccination which may require immediate attention, the ministry stated.
The ministry said that if a pregnant woman gets infected with the virus, 90 per cent of them recover without any need for hospitalisation, while rapid deterioration in health may occur in a few.
“Symptomatic pregnant women appear to be at an increased risk of severe disease and death. In case of severe disease, like all other patients, pregnant women shall also need hospitalization. Pregnant women with underlying medical conditions e.g, high blood pressure, obesity, age over 35 years are at a higher risk of severe illness due to Covid-19,” it further stated.
Talking about the apprehensions regarding the baby’s health, the ministry informed that more than 95 per cent of newborns of Covid-19 positive mothers have been in good condition at birth. In some cases, Covid-19 infections in pregnancy may increase the possibility of a premature delivery, the baby’s weight might be less than 2.5kg and in rare situations and might die before birth, it noted.
“Women older than 35 years of age, obese women, having a pre-existing illness such as diabetes or high blood pressure, having a history of clotting in the limbs are at a higher risk of developing complications after Covid-19 infection. In case a woman has been infected with Covid-19 during the current pregnancy, then she should be vaccinated soon after the delivery,” the ministry said.
New Covid vax guidelines for expecting mothers:
On June 25, the Centre revised an earlier policy to state that pregnant women should be vaccinated against Covid-19. “We should also have a separate registry — trimesterwise — for pregnant women who undergo vaccination, to facilitate follow-ups and data collection for future use,” said Gupte, who is also chairman (ethical committee) of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics — the organisation that brings together global professional societies of obstetricians and gynaecologists.
Patients suffering from severe pregnancy induced hypertension called pre-eclampsia or immune suppression treatment should be offered vaccines only after their obstetricians’ consultation and permission, the experts said.
“Besides this, women who are planning pregnancy — natural or through assisted methods — can take the vaccine and then attempt to get pregnant. Also, the vaccines do not affect fertility. Both husband and wife can take the same or different vaccines. It doesn’t matter,” said gynaecologist and infertility expert Sanjeev Khurd.
Specialists said the lead Covid vaccines in India — Covishield and Covaxin — do not contain any live virus. There is no biological mechanism in them to cause Covid in the mother or unborn foetus. Therefore, there is no transmission during pregnancy or through breast milk, they said.
“The decision will be useful for pregnant women with other comorbidities and those who are at high risk of exposure due to their work. Pregnant women account for about 5% of the population,” said gynaecologist Pankaj Sarode.
Before the June 25 revision, the health ministry had said “women who are pregnant or not sure of their pregnancy should not receive Covid-19 vaccine. But later the ministry said pregnant women should also be vaccinated.