Experts have again urged all expectant mothers to get vaccinated, citing recent data which shows Covid-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant women.
Dr Ganesh Ramachandran, head of the School of Medicine at Taylor’s University, said there are no live coronavirus or additives in the vaccines that are potentially harmful to the baby.
This follows news of the death of singer Siti Sarah Raissuddin, who was seven months pregnant, from Covid-19 complications earlier this week. Her baby was born through surgery.
Her death sparked debate on whether or not the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV) should look into expediting vaccinations for all expectant mothers regardless of their term.
Ganesh said data regarding the use of the Covid-19 vaccine in pregnancy “is evolving and we are all learning everyday”.
“However, overwhelmingly, the evidence points to a safe vaccine and lives saved,” he said, urging all pregnant women to get vaccinated unless advised otherwise by their doctors or caregivers, especially in view of the Delta variant.
He said the evidence has so far shown that the vaccine has no effect on an ongoing pregnancy or a woman’s fertility.
He said even though the current approval to use it from 13 weeks of gestation onwards is in line with international norms, available evidence has pointed to its safety throughout pregnancy.
“‘However, many women and healthcare providers tend to be cautious about medications in the first 12 weeks, as the foetus’ major organs are developing at this stage,” he said.
Ganesh said most pregnant mothers will be asymptomatic if they contract Covid-19, but will have increased risks of developing severe illness leading to hospitalisation or respiratory assistance.
This is due to their suppressed immune system during pregnancy.
Pregnant women with Covid-19 also have a higher risk of having a premature delivery, developing high blood pressure in pregnancy (pre eclampsia), still birth or having to undergo an emergency Caesarean section.
Meanwhile, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr John Teo Beng Ho said it was expected that in line with the spike in Covid-19 cases, the proportion of pregnant women infected with severe illnesses would rise rapidly as well.
“That is why we need to advocate that we vaccinate as many pregnant women as possible nationwide, as fast as possible,” he said.
Teo agreed that data so far showed that it was safe for pregnant women to be vaccinated.
“The higher risk of severe Covid-19 disease and foetal complications is in the third trimester and thus, it is prudent to try to complete the vaccination before the third trimester for better protection.
“However, it does not mean that a pregnant woman cannot have her vaccination in the third trimester as there may still be significant benefits,” he said.
He said that, as a rule of thumb, vaccinations for pregnant women are recommended for those past their first trimester due to critical foetal development during this stage, unless the vaccinations are deemed urgent.
Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye, however, recommends that women take the vaccine either before their pregnancy or between 13 and 34 weeks of gestation.
He said expectant mothers should be given priority for vaccination due to them being at higher risk of infection and mortality. - FMT