UPDATED | Pregnancy and Covid-19 vaccine safety: These are the facts

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"The benefits of receiving a Covid-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy." Photo: Getty Images
"The benefits of receiving a Covid-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy." Photo: Getty Images

If you are pregnant, intending to become pregnant soon or are breastfeeding your child, here are some facts you need to know about the Covid-19 virus vaccine. 

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) published a few recommendations on 31 August 2021 for pregnant women getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

The first recommendation is that the Covid-19 vaccination should be offered to pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy and during lactation.

Both the Comirnaty® (Pfizer) vaccine or the Janssen® (J&J) can be offered, says NICD.

Secondly, the NICD says that "consideration should be given to providing vaccination to pregnant and breastfeeding women during routine antenatal and postnatal visits."

In a case where this is not possible, the NICD says that health care workers should encourage pregnant and breastfeeding women to access vaccination at a nearby vaccination site.

Another recommendation is that health care workers should encourage pregnant women to vaccinate and highlight "the increased risk, albeit small, of severe disease in pregnant women when compared to non-pregnant women," says the NICD.

Health workers are encouraged to reassure pregnant women about the growing evidence supporting the safety of vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding women, the robust immune response following vaccination and the benefits of immune transfer to the baby, and ongoing safety monitoring of vaccine use in pregnancy.

The NICD recommends that health workers should tell a pregnant woman that "there are no known risks associated with other non-live vaccines given routinely to pregnant women."

Lastly, the NICD strongly recommended the Covid-19 vaccine for the women planning to fall pregnant soon.

Read: OPINION | I won't ask you to get vaccinated, but as numbers become names consider this

According to scientific evidence, there is no reason to suspect that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility and the ability to conceive, although there are many (false) speculations about this on social media.

To confirm, Health24 interviewed two experts who agreed that there is no evidence, nor any plausible medical or biological reason, why Covid-19 vaccines would affect fertility in females or males.

Unvaccinated pregnant women 

As the virus spread through the US recently, doctors saw worrying numbers of unvaccinated pregnant women becoming seriously ill, when compared with women who are not pregnant. This indicates that pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting the virus than their non-pregnant counterparts. 

When vaccinated, pregnant people build antibodies that protect their baby, so when pregnant people receive an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine during pregnancy, their bodies build antibodies against Covid-19.

Health24 also published that breastfeeding women who have received mRNA Covid-19 vaccines have antibodies in their breastmilk, which could help protect their babies.

There is no clear indication yet on the impact of the vaccine on milk production after a mother has been vaccinated, or the effect of the vaccine on the breastfed baby.

There is no evidence to support anecdotal reports that the vaccines induce miscarriages in women who receive the vaccine, Professor Wolfgang Preiser, Head of the Division of Medical Virology at Stellenbosch University, told Health24.

Pregnant women with co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension in pregnancy should be prioritised for vaccination, should vaccine supplies be limited, as they are at a high risk of contracting the virus.


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