Picture: Freepik
Picture: Freepik

Should I get the Covid-19 vaccine if I am pregnant?

By Keagan Le Grange Time of article published Apr 7, 2021

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Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has been an even more stressful place for pregnant women and their families with little information available on Covid-19 and pregnancy.

As the world shifts its focus to vaccinating populations in an effort to contain Covid-19, many people , including pregnant women, are indecisive about getting the vaccine.

Data on Covid-19 vaccines and pregnancy has been limited because those who were pregnant or breast-feeding weren’t included in the initial clinical trials.

However, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, and BioNTech launched a new clinical trial with around 4 000 pregnant women in February.

“Enabling broad access to our highly effective Covid-19 vaccine is an important goal for us. Now that we are seeing successful initial implementation of vaccine campaigns with BNT162b2 across the globe, it is time to take the next step and extend our clinical programme to other vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, to potentially protect both them and future generations,” said Özlem Türeci, the chief medical officer of BioNTech.

Discovering the effects of the vaccine on pregnant and breast-feeding women, a recent study published in the The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that vaccines were effective and protected babies from the virus too.

In the study, 131 participants were vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine with 84 participants pregnant, 31 lactating and 16 non-pregnant. Blood samples were collected after the first and second vaccine dose as well as 6 weeks later.

Lead author of the study, Dr Kathryn Gray, said the researchers were looking for the participants’ levels of antibodies in response to the vaccine . They discovered higher levels in those who took the vaccine than those who had been infected with Covid-19 during pregnancy.

The findings “suggests that even if you’ve had Covid infection, getting the vaccine will lead to a more robust antibody response”, says Gray.

The discoveries did not stop there. The team found antibodies in umbilical cord blood and breast milk, which means babies gain access to this much-needed form of defence.

Although further studies are required to determine how much protection the vaccine really provides to the babies of pregnant women in terms of length of protection and preventing sickness, the findings look promising for the health and safety of pregnant mothers.

D. Judette Louis, an obstetrician who until recently served as president of the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, said soon-to-be mothers needed to weigh up the benefits and risks.

“We haven’t seen any safety problems with the vaccine, but we certainly see worse outcomes if you catch Covid,” says Louis. “If you’re pregnant, you are more likely to end up in the intensive care unit, you’re more likely to end up on a ventilator. And slightly more like to die.”

Comparing that risk to getting the vaccine, Louis said: “It doesn’t just protect you from catching severe Covid and ending up in the hospital. It seems to pass on some antibodies to your baby.”

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