Pregnant women who have chronic medical conditions that could further increase their risk for severe COVID-19, as well as those whose work puts them at increased risk for getting infected, should consider taking the vaccine, advises Qatar’s National Health Strategy Lead for Healthy Women Leading to Healthy Pregnancies, Dr. Najat Al Khenyab.
She says that a pregnant woman who is part of an at risk group recommended to receive COVID-19 vaccine such as healthcare personnel may choose to be vaccinated and that the vaccine is also safe for women who are planning to become pregnant and those currently breastfeeding their babies.
Meanwhile, Dr. Al Khenyab notes that the vaccines have not yet been tested on pregnant women. However, evidence from non-clinical studies of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has been reviewed by the World Health Organization and the regulatory bodies in the USA, Canada and Europe and has raised no concerns about safety in pregnancy.
“Pregnancy alters the body’s immune system and generally affects a pregnant woman’s response to viral infections in general, causing in some cases more severe symptoms. However, from research evidence so far, pregnant woman (just as anyone else) could acquire COVID-19 and most healthy pregnant women do recover before they deliver. All pregnant women affected by COVID-19 are being successfully cared for at Hamad Medical Corporation and most babies born to COVID-19-positive mothers have so far tested negative,” she explains.
“COVID-19 can be more severe during pregnancy due to pregnant women’s lower immunity and there has been no evidence that COVID-19 vaccine has adverse effects on pregnancy or the fetus. It is recommended that pregnant women should receive the vaccine albeit not as a routine vaccination but based on their individual pregnancy conditions and potential risks of contracting COVID-19,” she says.
Dr. Al Khenyab, who is also a Senior Consultant Obstetrics/Gynecology at Women’s Wellness and Research Center, says pregnant women with increased risk of COVID-19 would still need to consult their physicians before receiving the vaccine, otherwise they may need to delay the vaccination until after their delivery.
“While there is currently no evidence that the Moderna and Pfizer BioNtech vaccines being administered in Qatar are unsafe for pregnant women or those currently breastfeeding their babies, it is advisable for pregnant women to seek their physician’s advice before taking the vaccine,” says Al Khenyab. According to her, their physicians will help them make informed decisions about receiving the vaccines after examining their potential exposure to community transmission of COVID-19 or their personal risk of contracting the virus at work.
Dr. Salwa Abu Yaqoub, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at WWRC emphasized that if women are having healthy pregnancies with no high risk of exposure to COVID-19 or they have no chronic condition and their pregnancies are categorized low risk, they may delay their covid-19 vaccination until after delivery.
“Where pregnant women are not able to receive the vaccine, it is important that they take precautions to protect themselves against the virus – mask-wearing, regular hand washing, social distancing and avoiding gatherings – and to report possible symptoms including fever, cough or difficulty breathing to their healthcare provider. Due to changes in their bodies and immune systems, it is known that pregnant women can be badly affected by some respiratory infections including COVID-19,” says Dr. Abu Yaqoub.
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