There has been a lot of speculation and discussion around whether pregnant women can get vaccinated against coronavirus or not, with experts trying to weigh in on the possible pros and cons and trying to determine whether it would be safe for them or not. Now, however, the Centre has allowed vaccination for pregnant women in India, which means that now, the entire adult population of India can be inoculated. The decision came after the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) recommended allowing pregnant women to make the informed choice on whether they want to get vaccinated or not, according to a report in IE.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that the decision had been based on consultations held on a national level. It added that all the states have been apprised of the decision so that they can implement it under the national vaccination programme. With this, pregnant women would be able to register themselves for vaccination on COWIN or walk-into the COVID vaccination centre nearest to them for getting the dose.
The Union Health Ministry also cited studies that found that contracting coronavirus during pregnancy could cause rapid deterioration in health and could also put them at a higher risk of severe diseases as compared to women who are not pregnant. It also had the ability to affect the foetus as well, the ministry said. Women with COVID-19 infection also put them at an increased risk for preterm birth among other adverse outcomes related to pregnancy, the report added. The ministry also said that while most pregnant women would remain asymptomatic or would have mild infection, their health could deteriorate at a rapid rate, possibly affecting the foetal outcome. These were among the reasons why the ministry decided to implement this move, while also taking into consideration the WHO recommendation to take the vaccine in cases where the benefits from inoculation outweigh the risks.
About the side effects that could be possible due to the vaccine, the ministry said that the vaccine is safe and protective which is not likely to pose any risk to the pregnant person or the foetus. However, it also added that the long-term adverse effects and safety of the vaccine for the foetus and the child were not yet known. They said that the immediate side effects were the common ones like mild fever, or feeling unwell for a few days or pain at the site of the injection. They also warned of the rare adverse reaction that could be seen within the first 20 days of receiving the dose, in which case urgent medical help needed to be sought.
Among these rare adverse reactions are shortness of breath, swelling in limbs or pain on pressing the limbs, chest pain, bruising of the skin other than the vaccination site, persistent abdominal pain that may or may not be accompanied by vomiting, seizures without any history of seizures, blurred vision or pain in the eyes, weakness or paralysis of limbs or a particular side of the body, and persistent vomiting.
Pregnant women have the same contraindications as that for the rest of the people. In case there is an allergic reaction to the previous dose or allergic reaction to vaccines or injectable therapies, food items or pharmaceutical products, then the ministry has recommended against getting the vaccine.
In case a woman had gotten infected with COVID-19, the ministry has said that she must defer vaccination for 12 weeks from infection or four to eight weeks from recovery. The recommendation for deferring the dose has also been given for women treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma. Apart from this, if a woman got COVID-19 during pregnancy, the ministry has recommended that she get vaccinated soon after delivering the baby.
The expert group also enlisted the risk factors for severe COVID infection during pregnancy – high body mass index, pre-existing comorbidities, and advanced maternal age.
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