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Sunday, August 01, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine allowed during pregnancy: women may make ‘informed choice’

The Union Health Ministry accepted the recommendation of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) to allow pregnant women to make an “informed choice” on taking the vaccine.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: July 3, 2021 8:06:58 am
The Ministry had said on May 19 that vaccination was recommended for lactating women. (Representational)

Five-and-a-half months into the immunisation programme against Covid-19, India on Friday allowed vaccination for pregnant women, paving the way for the entire adult population of the country to be vaccinated.

The Union Health Ministry accepted the recommendation of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) to allow pregnant women to make an “informed choice” on taking the vaccine.

The decision followed national-level consultations “to build consensus on Covid vaccination of pregnant women”, the Ministry said.

The Ministry had said on May 19 that vaccination was recommended for lactating women. Whether pregnant women could be vaccinated was under deliberation by NTAGI, it had said at the time.

On Friday, the Ministry said: “The consultation unanimously welcomed the recommendation of NTAGI to vaccinate pregnant women. The consultation included professional bodies like FOGSI (Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India), representatives of State Governments, CSOs (civil society organisations), NGOs, Development Partner agencies, and technical experts.”

“The decision has been communicated to all the States to implement it under the ongoing National Covid Vaccination Program… Pregnant women may now register on CoWIN or walk in to the nearest COVID Vaccination Centre (CVC) to get themselves vaccinated,” it said.

 

The Ministry said studies have shown that getting infected with the coronavirus while pregnant “may result in rapid deterioration of health” of women, and might put them at an “increased risk of severe diseases and…might affect foetus too”.

“The matter has been examined by domain knowledge experts based on the evidence that indicate that pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19 compared to non-pregnant women in case they get infected. Further, pregnant women with Covid-19 infection are at an increased risk for preterm birth and other adverse pregnancy outcomes, including higher chances of neonatal morbidity,” the Ministry said.

It said that the expert group had underlined that “pre-existing co-morbidities, advanced maternal age, and high body mass index” were risk factors for severe Covid during pregnancy.

Meanwhile, Dr V K Paul, who heads the country’s Covid-19 task force, said on Friday that findings of one of the biggest studies of its kind in India show that vaccines offer very high protection from death due to Covid.

In a group of 42,720 Punjab Police personnel who received both doses of the vaccine, only two deaths were reported, Paul said. “The incidence was 0.05 per thousand.” The study did not, however, look into the infection data, he said.

The findings of the study by PGIMER Chandigarh, also showed that nine deaths were reported in 35,856 personnel who received a single dose of the vaccine, Paul said. “The incidence was 0.25 (per thousand),” he said.

Significantly, among the 4,868 personnel who did not receive any vaccine, 15 deaths were reported; an incidence of 3 per thousand, Paul said. “If we do a mathematical calculation on the protection offered by the vaccine, the protection was 92 per cent with single dose, and 98 per cent for both doses,” he said.

“This data again shows in real life that by taking the vaccine, the risk of getting severe disease minimises. Serious disease almost gets eliminated. This is why we have faith in vaccines; because it is demonstrated that they are effective,” Paul said.

The Centre on Friday deputed multi-disciplinary teams to six states — Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Manipur — “in view of the increased number of Covid-19 cases being reported by these States”, the Health Ministry said.

The “second wave is not over”, Paul said. “There are problem districts in the country. The central teams have been sent. We need to shrink the cases at a localised level… The restrictions are opening. However, we need to be disciplined. We have to be vigilant. Wherever the virus is still significant, the Centre is fully watching those pockets. The system is being mobilised. Sending these teams is just one aspect,” he said.

Cases have doubled in Europe, and that the virus is “showing a tendency of rising again”, Paul said. “In Europe, there were 50 cases per million; it is now double that number. In the UK, the cases were less than 100 per million; they are now 375. In Israel, the absolute cases had fallen to zero, but have now risen to 300,” he said.

This new surge shows that India cannot lower its guard until it achieves significant vaccination coverage, Paul said. “In India too, there are pockets where cases are rising. We have to stop the virus in these areas… We need to still vaccinate a significant number, which will take a few more months. That is our goal,” he said.

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