The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has updated its guidance and now recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as non-pregnant women.
“This is incredibly welcome news. Vaccination programmes have the greatest chance of impacting the spread of a virus if more people get vaccinated. The new guidance enables more women to benefit from the increased protection offered by the COVID-19 vaccine,” said the Minister for Health, Sabrina Turner.
The JCVI updated guidance states that there is no known risk associated with giving inactivated, recombinant viral or bacterial vaccines or toxoids during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Since these vaccines cannot replicate, they cannot cause infection in either mother or the foetus.
Clinical trials of the Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines with animals found no concerns relating to reproduction or development.
Since the vaccines received emergency authorisation in the USA, extensive data has been collected relating to vaccinated women. Over 100,000 women in the USA have indicated that they were pregnant at the time they received COVID-19 vaccination and nearly 5,000 have enrolled in an ongoing study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). No safety concerns have been reported so far. Further information on the study can be found here https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafepregnancyregistry.html.
“Global vaccine uptake continues to be very promising as over a billion doses have been administered worldwide to date. With this comes more information and evidence that is suggesting that the COVID-19 vaccines available are safe and effective at preventing the worse outcomes from the disease,” said Chief Medical Officer, Dr John Lee.
“We continue to monitor the latest information as it is published and as more studies are conducted. The new guidance from JCVI is very encouraging especially since pregnant women are much more at risk if they do get sick with COVID-19. I hope it will give confidence to women who are pregnant, or are planning to be, who can choose to take advantage of the vaccine available on-island,” he added.
The JCVI guidance further explains that if a woman finds out she is pregnant after she has started a course of vaccine, she may complete vaccination during pregnancy using the same vaccine product (unless contraindicated). Alternatively, vaccination should be offered as soon as possible after pregnancy.
As with many medical and personal decisions during and after pregnancy, women are advised to discuss the benefits and risks of vaccination with their clinician.
The Ministry of Health encourages all persons to take advantage of the vaccine supplies available to all residents and reminds the public of the June 9th date by which a first dose must be taken in order for the Public Health Department to be able to utilize the remaining vaccines, prior to their expiration at end of June.