The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India ( FOGSI ), with over 37,000 doctors are members, has said Covid-19 vaccines should be given to pregnant women and lactating mothers. In a statement on Thursday, the group said: “There is a need to prevent further waves and the vaccine is the best and long-term solution to this. This protection should extend to pregnant and lactating women. The very real benefits of vaccinating pregnant and lactating women seem to far outweigh any theoretical and remote risks of vaccination.”
At present, recommendations from the ministry of health and family welfare state that pregnancy and lactation are contraindications to vaccinations. This is based on the principle that there is no data available to ensure safety in pregnancy. The statement acknowledges the limited data available on the use of Covid vaccines in pregnant women, especially of vaccines available in India. “But data from basic science and animal studies have not shown any teratogenic or adverse fetal or neonatal effects of the vaccine,” the statement said. Teratogenic effects refer to any structural deformities in the baby. The doctors said, “It is recommended that obstetricians and gynaecologists and women's health care providers should be allowed to administer the vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding women with preparations to manage adverse events.”
Dr S Shantha Kumar , president-elect, FOGSI, said, “Pregnant women are a high-risk group. We request the government to extend the protection to this group of individuals. The guidance on this matter will affect about 50 million lives in India every year.” There are 25 million births annually in India.
“We should offer vaccines to pregnant women on a priority basis. The burden on hospitals is higher if a pregnant woman gets sick with Covid,” said Dr Suhasini Inamdar, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital , Bengaluru. Inamdar added in the second wave of Covid, “a large number of pregnant women are getting infected and admitted to hospitals”.
Breastfeeding mothers, too, should be allowed to take the vaccine according to the statement. “There is no evidence of harm if a vaccine is administered to a breastfeeding woman. In fact, there is possible benefit from the passage of antibodies to the newborn,” FOGSI said.
Couples planning to get pregnant can safely take the vaccine; it can be taken on any day of the menstrual cycle; there is no need to defer pregnancy or fertility treatments before taking the vaccine, FOGSI said.