COVID-19 vaccine is safe for pregnant women, may soon be routine vaccine

When the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out begun globally, pregnant women were asked not to roll up their sleeves for a jab until further research was conducted to prove its safety for use.

Months after several investigations, vaccine manufactures announced that they have a scientific prove that the COVID-19 vaccines could be used for pregnant women without any alarm.

The World Health Organization says Pregnant women can receive COVID-19 vaccines as it offers a strong protection against severe illness from COVID-19.

“Increasing evidence on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy suggests that the benefits of vaccination during pregnancy outweigh potential risks whenever there is ongoing or anticipated community transmission of the virus,” it said.

The WHO says although pregnant women were not included in the initial clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines, evidence on the safety of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy has been expanding.

In Ghana for instance, the Ghana Health Service in January 2022, announced that pregnant women could now visit vaccination centers to receive a dose on Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.

“We have done quite a lot of work and now, we have enough evidence both internationally and locally that the recommended vaccines are safe for both pregnant women and their unborn babies, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) said when he took his turn at the Minsters Press Briefing on January 19, 2022, in Accra.

While some pregnant women received the news with gladness, others were hesitant to get vaccinated, its safety among pregnant women was of concern to many.

Data from the GHS Expanded Programme on Immunization indicates that Ghana is slowly progressing with COVID-19 vaccination among pregnant women. As of May 25, this year, 12,133 have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 1457 have received a second dose and 176 have received their first booster dose.

At the Maternity block of the Korle Bu Teach Hospital, Madam Gifty Kpodo a pregnant woman in her second trimester told the Ghana News Agency that she had not vaccinated against COVID-19 and doesn’t intend to do so.

“I have heard of radio and television adverts on the need for everyone to vaccinate against the virus, but for vaccination among pregnant women, I have not received much information on it, I am not sure of its safety and so, I am not interested in the COVID-19 vaccination now,” she said.

Madam Ayele Shika, a pregnant woman who resides at Mamprobi, a suburb of Accra and was due delivery said she had not vaccinated because she didn’t know where to get a jab and would like to vaccinate after delivery.

“My baby is just six-week-old, I am not too sure about the safety of the vaccine for me and my baby. I would prefer to vaccinate two years later by which time I would have finished breastfeeding my baby,” Awo Nunoo, a 27-year-old lactating mother said.

Dr Kwame Amposa-Achino, Head of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) at the GHS observed that although quite a number of pregnant women have turned up for the vaccine, some pregnant women are skeptical in receiving the jab because pregnant women were not included in the exercise at the beginning.

“Normally, if you do not include a certain group of people at the beginning of a vaccination exercise, they turn to ask why now?,” he said.

Dr Amposa-Achiano said at the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccination exercise, health experts were not sure of the safety of the vaccine in pregnant women because, the vaccine had not been tried in pregnant women.

“But now, there is scientific evidence that the vaccine is safe for pregnant women at every stage of their pregnancy,” he said.

He encouraged pregnant women to get vaccinated and protect themselves from contracting the virus, stating that COVID-19 vaccine is safe and there is no excess risk for pregnant women in terms of adverse events compared to non-pregnant people.

Dr Amponsa–Achiano said Ghana revised it vaccination policy to include pregnant women due to reports of excess deaths among pregnant women who contracted the virus by practicing Gynecologists.

“The GHS practices safety before efficacy and so we needed to be sure of the safety of the vaccine before we talked about its protection,” he said

The Programme Manager reiterated the safety of the vaccine among pregnant women stating, ‘even if you are planning to get pregnant you can get vaccinated.’

Presently, no birth defects or significant adverse pregnancy effects have been associated with the vaccines and full vaccination does not only reduces   the risk of expectant mothers being hospitalized with severe COVID-19 infection but also offers babies considerable protection against the disease for the first six months of their lives.

A recently published study in the journal of the American Medical Association    show that while mothers with COVID-19 infection can pass antibodies to their newborns, protection is not as robust or as long-lasting as protection from vaccinated mothers.

Dr Amponsa-Achiano said COVID-19 may be part of Ghana’s routine vaccination because citizens need to go back to their normal lives, adding COVID-19 probably has come to stay and its vaccination may have to be integrated into the routine national immunizations.

Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services…”

These include pregnant women, hence, the need for them to be vaccinated for their own safety and wellbeing.

Presently, Ghana is experiencing a fifth wave of the COVID-9 pandemic and Maternity block of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital have begun recording cases.

Checks by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) indicates that the block has begun enforcing strict adherence to the COVID-19 safety protocols among pregnant women who attend antenatal and prenatal at the Out Patient Department (OPD).

Pregnant women without nose mask are not allowed into the OPD with social distancing being observed in siting arrangement due to their vulnerability.

At the Oduman Polyclinic in Accra, Wednesdays has been dedicated to COVID-19 vaccinations, the GNA spotted a midwife providing pregnant and lactating mothers at the OPD with safety information on COVID-19 vaccine to provide reassurance and facilitate informed pregnancy vaccine decisions.

Coronavirus Disease COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-COV-2 virus.

Most people who fall sick with COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without special treatment, however, some could become seriously ill and require medical attention.

Older persons, and people with underlining health conditions like cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer are at high risk of contracting the virus.

Experts say the best way to prevent and slow down transmission and infection is to be well informed about the causes of the disease and how the virus spreads, protect yourself and others from the infection by vaccinating, wearing a nose mask, wash hands frequently with soap under running water and by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

By Linda Naa Deide Aryeetey

Source: GNA

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