In a major policy shift, the Health Ministry on Friday announced that pregnant women can now get vaccinated against Covid-19. Covid-19 vaccinations can save both pregnant woman and the child, said Dr N K Arora, Chairman, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI). The Covid-19 vaccination has been expanded to include all citizens above 18 years of age, making more than 69 per cent of the population eligible, of which nearly half 48 per cent are women.
Recent studies have shown that pregnant women who get infected with Covid-19 are more likely to require intensive care. Coronavirus infection during pregnancy can result in rapid deterioration of health and affect the fetus also.
The health ministry released a fact sheet and detailed information for Medical Officers for counselling pregnant women. Here are some of the key questions answered.
Why is the Covid-19 vaccine being recommended for pregnant women?
Pregnancy does not increase the risk of Covid-19 infection. Most pregnant women will be asymptomatic or have a mild disease, but their health may deteriorate rapidly, affecting the fetus. It is also important for pregnant women to 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.
Who are at higher risk of getting infected with Covid-19?
Health care and frontline workers, communities having high or increasing rate of Covid-19 infections and those frequently exposed to people outside the household. Those facing difficulty in complying with social distance if living in a crowded household.
How does Covid-19 affect the health of the pregnant woman?
Although most (>90 per cent) infected pregnant women recover without the need for hospitalization, rapid deterioration in health may occur in a few.
How does Covid-19 infection during pregnancy affect the baby?
Most (over 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 premature delivery. The baby’s weight might be less than 2.5 KG, and in rare situations, the baby might die before birth.
Who are at higher risk of developing pregnancy-related complications after Covid-19 infection?
Pregnant women who are: older than 35 years of age, obese, have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure or have a history of clotting in the limbs.
If a pregnant woman has already had Covid, when should she be vaccinated?
If a woman has been infected with Covid during the current pregnancy, she should be vaccinated soon after the delivery.
Are there any side effects of the Covid-19 vaccines that can either harm a pregnant woman or her foetus?
Covid-19 vaccines available are safe and vaccination protects pregnant women against Covid-19 illness/disease like other individuals. Like any medicine, a vaccine may have side effects which are normally mild. After getting the vaccine injection, women 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 vaccines for foetus and child are not established yet. Very rarely (one in 1 to 5 lakh persons), the beneficiary after Covid-19 vaccination may experience some of the following symptoms within 20 days after getting the injection which may need immediate attention.
When should the vaccine be given to pregnant women?
The Covid-19 vaccination schedule can be started anytime during pregnancy.
What other precautions need to be advised after vaccination?
You must counsel the pregnant woman and her family members to continue to practice Covid appropriate behaviour: wearing a double mask, frequent handwashing, maintaining physical distance and avoiding crowded areas to protect themselves and those around from spreading the COVID-19 infection.
How does a pregnant woman register herself for Covid-19 vaccination?
All pregnant women need to register themselves on the Co-WIN portal or may get themselves registered on-site at the Covid-19 vaccination centre. The process of registration for pregnant women remains the same as of the general population and as per the latest guidance provided by Health Ministry from time to time.