Pregnant women are more at risk of being severely affected by Covid-19; therefore, there is a need for them to get vaccinated against the virulent virus.
According to obstetrician and gynecologist Dr Linda Nangombe, the global statistics of women with severe illness due to Covid-19 has skyrocketed to 45% during the third wave, in comparison to the 24% of expecting mothers who were hospitalised during the first wave.
These worrisome statistics are attributed the deadly Alpha and Delta variants.
“The statistics are evident that pregnant women are more at risk of getting a severe disease, compared to the general population. It is, therefore, worthwhile to look at what other nations are doing in terms of prevention,” said Nangombe, who is based at the Ongwediva Medipark Private Hospital.
According to her, at least 50 000 pregnant mothers in the UK have been vaccinated so far, and only a few of them are being admitted to the hospital due to Covid-19.
“Studies have shown that women who have received a vaccine pass on antibodies to their babies, so the benefit of vaccination to both pregnant women and their babies is clear. Covid-19 vaccines can be given anytime in pregnancy,” she said.
“The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women in low-risk situations may choose to delay vaccination until 12 weeks of gestation, aiming for vaccination as soon as possible thereafter. For high-risk women with a higher chance of contacting Covid 19 or at a higher risk of severe illness from Covid 19, the vaccine should be offered at the earliest opportunity, including the first trimester.”
Breastfeeding mothers and women planning for pregnancy or who are on fertility treatment can also get vaccinated and they do not need to delay the conception.
An informed decision-making process involves supporting a pregnant woman to understand the risks and benefits of the vaccine when choosing to be vaccinated, said Nangombe.
Apart from severe illnesses, Nangombe pointed out other benefits of vaccination that include reduction in risk of preterm birth and stillbirth associated with Covid, reduction in transmission of Covid-19 to vulnerable household members and protection of the newborn from Covid-19 by passive antibody transfer.
While there are few minor side effects associated with the vaccine to the mother, Nangombe said there has been no evidence of fetal harm following vaccination.
She urged both vaccinated and unvaccinated mothers to continue taking precautions, including washing hands, wearing masks and using sanitiser.
Dr Linda Nangombe