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‘Third wave could bring with it more variants’: Experts urge pregnant women to get vaccine

Based on the information provided, a pregnant woman may be offered the Covid-19 vaccine, which can be given anytime during the pregnancy, the NTAGI recommendations said.

Written by Parul | Chandigarh |
July 17, 2021 10:51:56 am
Pregnant women can now register on the CoWIN portal or walk-in to the nearest COVID Vaccination Centre (CVC). (Representational/File)

THE National Technical Advisory Group (NTAGI) on Immunization had issued a notification a month back, in which a recommendation was made that all pregnant women visiting antenatal care may be informed about the risks and benefits associated with the Covid vaccines available in India.

Based on the information provided, a pregnant woman may be offered the Covid-19 vaccine, which can be given anytime during the pregnancy, the NTAGI recommendations said. A recent study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical research (ICMR), underlined the importance of vaccination of pregnant and lactating women against Covid-19. The ICMR study compared pregnant and postpartum women during the first wave (April 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021) and the second wave (February 1, 2021 to May 14, 2021).

Symptomatic cases were significantly higher at 28.7 per cent in the second wave compared to 14.2 per cent. According to the study, the total number of maternal deaths during both the waves of the pandemic were 2 per cent, of which majority were due to Covid pneumonia and respiratory failure. Keeping in view the above factors and with a nod from the Government of India for vaccination of pregnant women, vaccination for pregnant women started in Chandigarh on Tuesday.

“We were training our staff for counselling pregnant women to opt for the vaccine, explaining that it is safe for both the mother and baby. The training has ended, and the vaccination drive for pregnant women has begun in the UT, with a number of women coming forward to take the shot. The second wave was more harmful for pregnant women, with cases of mortality also reported, and in the third surge, there could be new variants, which could affect pregnant women, as they are not vaccinated. It is important to mention that the benefits of vaccination outweigh any remote risk, so yes, we will be encouraging them to come forward to join the vaccinated citizens of Chandigarh,” says Dr Amandeep Kang, Director Health Services, UT.

Dr Swati Kashyap, Senior Resident, Government Medical College and Hospital, says that since the start of the pandemic, the hospital has admitted and managed over 146 pregnant patients in GMCH-32. Most patients were asymptomatic or had mild illness. Last year approximately 64% patients were asymptomatic, 31% had mild, 2.5% had moderate and 2.5% had severe disease. This year around 60% of the patients were asymptomatic, 21% had mild, 11% had moderate and 8% had severe illness.

“During the second wave, we witnessed an increase in moderate and severe cases, admissions to ICU and increase in maternal mortality. Vaccine reduces the risk of infection and if infection occurs, it decreases the severity and mortality. WHO recommends that Covid vaccine should be offered to pregnant women who are at high risk of exposure or have co-morbidities after explaining the benefits versus the risks of vaccination. It should be the informed choice of the pregnant and lactating women in consultation with her healthcare provider to get vaccinated. Prevention is always better than cure,” says Dr Kashyap.

Dr Swapna Misra, Director, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, says expecting mothers are a vulnerable lot owing to their health condition and vaccination will ensure safety of the mother and will have no effect on the baby. “Vaccinating pregnant women will also bring down maternal deaths. There have been instances where pregnant women were asymptomatic throughout their pregnancy but tested positive at the time of delivery. Vaccination is the need of the hour to save the mother and child.”

Prof Rakesh Kochhar, Department of Gastroenterology, PGI, says latest data shows that the vaccination is safe for pregnant women, and the antibodies will protect the baby as well. “Any new vaccine or drug is first tested on adults, elderly, children and only after studying conclusive data, the vaccination is opened to pregnant women,” he says.
Prof Pankaj Malhotra, from the Department of Internal Medicine. PGI, said: “If we look at the risk-benefit ratio, all data is in favour of the vaccine. Children and pregnant women are two segments which are not vaccinated, and so are at a higher risk…”

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