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Health News of Saturday, 28 August 2021


What you need to know about coronavirus vaccine and pregnancy

Photo used to illustrate the story Photo used to illustrate the story

The first COVID-19 vaccines are available to the public, and with that come many questions regarding their administration in pregnant and lactating women. Doctors are extremely cautious about what they recommend during pregnancy, so the original advice was to avoid the jab.

Evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy has been growing. Now, experts’ new assessment of the vaccine indicates that pregnant women need to be fully vaccinated, whether with the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine because the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy.

A worldwide study also found that 11 per cent of babies contracted the novel coronavirus from their mothers. Also, pregnant women who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy were 20 times more likely to die than those who did not contract the virus.

It was a study of 2,100 pregnant women, those who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy that was compared with two uninfected pregnant women who gave birth during the same span in the same hospital.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, had involved more than 100 researchers and pregnant women from 43 maternity hospitals in 18 low-, middle- and high-income nations; 220 of the women received care in the United States, 40 at UW Medicine. The research was conducted between April and August of 2020.

Aside from an increased risk of death, the study said that women and their newborns were also more likely to experience preterm birth, preeclampsia and admission to the ICU and/or intubation. Of the mothers who tested positive for the disease, 11.5 per cent of their babies also tested positive.

Is there a specific reason for pregnant women to contract COVID-19? With COVID-19 cases rising generally due to the delta variant, which is much more transmissible than other virus strains, pregnant women stand a greater risk of severe COVID-19 if they contract the virus, increased risk of preterm birth and it can affect the health of the baby inside the womb, says Professor Josiah Mutihir, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at the Jos University Teaching Hospital.

In pregnancy, the body’s immune system is suppressed, leaving pregnant women more susceptible to all viral illnesses, including COVID-19. In addition, pregnancy hormones and the growing fetus can diminish the ability of the lungs to expand so a respiratory illness such as COVID-19 can be more dangerous.

Professor Mutihir stated that although vaccines like the Tetanus Toxoid is expected to be taken in pregnancy to provide early protection and immunity to mother and baby from infections by creating protective antibodies to fight diseases, a lot of misinformation on the COVID-19 vaccine, lack of data on the vaccine and fear makes many people, including pregnant women hesitant to get the vaccine.

According to him, “pregnant women have been impregnated with fear by the general public, and so the vaccine acceptance in pregnant women is low. Also, there is a cohort of people that will not take the vaccine for one reason or the other no matter what you do.

“Studies in other countries show that COVID-19 is safe in pregnancy; the vaccines are not targeted at making anybody abnormal. It is just the politics around this particular vaccine that makes it be one kind. There is a lot of misinformation also on the vaccine.

“Of course, except pregnant women take the vaccine in Nigeria, we cannot generate the data that we can use to inform policies. We cannot use data from Europe taking into consideration that the infection is not as severe as in Nigeria, for instance, as it is in Europe.”

Dr Babatunde Olatunji, Executive Secretary, Oyo State Primary Healthcare Board, however, declared that Nigeria’s policy of COVID-19 vaccination has excluded pregnant women until completion of studies on its safety in pregnancy.

Dr OLatunji stated: “We are not encouraging them to take the COVID-19; that is the policy for now. You will hear people that took it in the past say things like they experience fever, some body aches, and so on. Everybody could have a reaction to the vaccine in one way or the other.

“Pregnancy itself puts stress on them, so if anybody takes it been a new vaccine, if anything happens to the pregnancy, they will link it with the vaccine. In other to avoid such a controversy that is why are asking pregnant women not to take the vaccine. The research on the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy has not been completed.”

Reluctance to get the shots has been widespread among the pregnant population because they were excluded from clinical trials for the vaccines. Studies on pregnant women began in February, and evidence has shown no increased risk of miscarriage from the shots. U.S. health officials this month stepped up calls for pregnant people to get vaccinated.

Additional clinical trials that study the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and how well they work in pregnant people are underway or planned. Vaccine manufacturers are also collecting and reviewing data from people in the completed clinical trials who received a vaccine and became pregnant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended all pregnant women, those who plan on getting pregnant and breastfeeding mothers get the COVID-19 vaccine. Also, The World Health Organization (WHO) states they do not have any reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women.