Experts weigh in on Pfizer, Moderna vaccines - what about pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers?

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  • Pregnant women should seek advice from their health practitioners about getting the Covid-19 vaccine or not
  • Women planning to fall pregnant can take the vaccine as it has no impact on fertility
  • Breastfeeding women are advised to take the vaccine

With the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in countries around the globe, guidelines for vulnerable groups like pregnant women are needed to ensure safety for mothers and babies. This week, experts from the United States released Covid-19 guidelines for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers in Jama Network. These guidelines are for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Should pregnant mothers get the Covid-19 vaccine?

Experts advise that pregnant women should seek advice from their healthcare professional to weigh the benefits of vaccination against the potential risks. 

“However, this discussion should be optional so that it does not impose a barrier to vaccine receipt. Issues to consider in that discussion include data from animal studies on pregnant individuals who were inadvertently exposed during vaccine clinical trials (once these data become available),” the paper states.

As is often the case with new medications or vaccines, pregnant women were excluded from clinical trials, but studies are planned, and in cases where participants become pregnant during trials, they are monitored.

The doctors say that pregnant women should also consider the risk of reactions that may occur soon after vaccination, such as fever; the timing of vaccination by trimester; evidence for the safety of other vaccines; the potential for mitigation of SARS-CoV-2 exposure risk; the chances of passing Covid-19 to the foetus or newborn; and the individual’s risk of complications due to pregnancy, her age, and underlying conditions.

Experts also say that in the case of people planning to conceive, there is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines affect fertility.

“As part of pregnancy planning, clinicians should ensure that patients are up-to-date with all recommended vaccines, including Covid-19,” the paper states.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. While there are very little data are available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy, the body advises that pregnant women may receive the vaccine if the benefit of vaccinating a pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks. 

“For this reason, pregnant women at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. health workers) or who have comorbidities which add to their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated in consultation with their healthcare provider,” the WHO says.

Guidelines for breastfeeding 

Experts advise lactating women to get vaccinated. Although there are no data on the effects of Covid-19 vaccines on the breastfed infant, scientists say that previous mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk for breastfeeding for the infant or the production of breast milk.

“People who are breastfeeding and are part of a group recommended to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, such as healthcare personnel, may choose to be vaccinated,” the paper reads.

READ| Understanding immunology can help health practitioners treat long Covid-19

READ| Covid-19 in kids: What have we learnt one year later?

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