Healthcare experts have said that women can get vaccinated against COVID-19 anytime after the delivery of their baby, and stressed the need to permit vaccination of pregnant women, as well, to protect them from the infection.
The government recently allowed vaccination for lactating mothers.
The NITI Aayog Member (Health) has stressed that there is no problem in breastfeeding after vaccination and it must not be halted “even for an hour.”
Dr. Khan Amir Maroof, Professor in the Department of Community Medicine, University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, Delhi said there is no risk to the neonate from a vaccinated, breastfeeding mother.
“There is no reason to delay the vaccination after delivery,” he said.
Further, he said, no specific precautions need to be taken by lactating women in view of vaccination and the same precautions which apply to the general population are applicable to them as well.
Dr. Loveleena Nadir, the senior consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician at Fortis La Femme, Rosewalk Hospital and Apollo Cradle Royale, said vaccination can also be done during any phase of the menstrual cycle.
“COVID-19 is not an indication for caesarean delivery but there has been an increased frequency of pre-term births and caesarean deliveries, probably due to maternal illness associated with COVID-19 infection. If one has recovered from Covid infection, defer vaccination for 3 months from the date of recovery,” she said.
She further said that if a patient has taken the first dose and later turned out to be pregnant, they are advised to continue the pregnancy.
“Pregnancy doesn’t increase the risk of acquiring SARS-COV-2 infection but appears to worsen the clinical course as compared to non-pregnant women,” she added.
Experts have stressed on the need to vaccinate pregnant women to protect them from the infection.
Maroof said the government guidelines has not yet recommended COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women.
“This is because the Covid vaccine trials were not done on pregnant women and their safety and efficacy related data is not available. The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India has, however, recommended that Covid vaccine should be given to pregnant women as the risk of getting infected with Covid and mortality is high during this pandemic,” he said.
“This seems to be higher than the risk due to the side effects of the vaccine,” he said.
Dr. Sujeet Ranjan, Executive Director of the Coalition for Food and Nutrition Security (CFNS), New Delhi, said WHO guidelines state that pregnant and lactating mothers can be vaccinated but in India, the matter regarding inoculation of pregnant women is under discussion and further deliberation by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI).
“We are hopeful that Health Ministry may soon allow COVID-19 jab for pregnant women also. There are many countries that have already started Covid vaccination of pregnant and lactating mothers. In the present time, scientists are trying to generate enough data to recommend. We have learned that neither of the two Covid vaccines being administered in India — Covishield or Covaxin — has been tested on pregnant or lactating women for its impact, efficacy, and side effects. Therefore, we need to strictly follow the policy advice by the Health Ministry,” he said.
Dr Jaideep Malhotra, former president of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India and founder of the Infertility Centre of Rainbow IVF, said this fact should be circulated that the vaccines available in India right now do not contain live virus, hence are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and will not cause any more serious side effects like abortions or congenital malformations.
“Very important message is that vaccinating pregnant women is going to take care of two lives and it is something which should be expedited as soon as possible. With 40 million pregnancies happening, we take care of almost 80 million lives,” said Malhotra.