Pregnant and breastfeeding moms can now get Covid-19 vaccine

After the J&J vaccine rollout was halted due to side effects in the US, the SA regulatory board is now opening up vaccinations to pregnant and breastfeeding women.

As of 29 April 2021, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) is recommending that high-risk pregnant women and those with cormobidities get the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine. 

The use of the vaccines in pregnant women has been uncertain, given that pregnant and breastfeeding women were excluded from the initial vaccine trials. Research, however, is indicating that pregnant women are at higher risk of Covid-19 infection. These women placed in intensive care units either give birth prematurely or die. 

Pregnant and Covid vaccine

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Covid-19 not only poses a threat to the mother but can determine the viability of the foetus.

The rollout of the J&J vaccine was suspended due to adverse effects experienced by some recipients. Vaccine recipients experienced thrombosis involving the presence of blood clots in the dural venous sinuses, which drains blood from the brain. Some of these cases have led to death. Symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Fainting, loss of consciousness, or coma
  • Seizures
  • Loss of control over movement in parts of the body

These cases were reported in the US in early April, and the SAHPRA recommended the Sisonke vaccine rollout to health workers be halted

According to SAHPRA “review of the data generated to date from the Sisonke trial confirm that no cases of VITT (clotting) have been identified but there have been some reported cases of thrombosis thought by the research team not to be associated with the use of the vaccine”. 

The rollout resumed this Wednesday and now includes high-risk pregnant and breastfeeding women, mainly health workers and those with comorbidities.  

Breastfeeding and Covid vaccine

Although data relating to pregnancy, breastfeeding and vaccination is limited, the WHO has previously recommended that high-risk pregnant women should receive the vaccine.

The WHO “highly recommends that pregnant women, especially those with cormobidities, are vaccinated, as Covid-19 poses a risk not only to maternal health but to foetal viability as well”.

According to SAHPRA, “pregnant women at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (e.g., health workers) or who have cormobidities which add to their risk of severe Covid-19 disease may be vaccinated in consultation with their healthcare provider”.

This is in line with WHO’s recommendation which further adds that pregnant women should be given the autonomy to choose whether or no they want to receive the vaccination. 

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