Guidance on Covid-19 vaccination for Pregnant and Lactating mothers Answers to some new questions around the vaccine based on advice from WHO and Government of India

03, Jul 2021 | CJP Team

Vaccination has emerged as the biggest weapon to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there is a significant amount of anxiety if the vaccines can be taken by lactating mothers, pregnant women etc. There is anxiety fueled by myths and misinformation around the vaccine that are still being circulated in some online groups.

However, experts such as World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan, as well as those advising the Government of India have stated that all the Covid-19 vaccines in use are safe, and must be taken by all those eligible.

India’s revised Guidelines for National Covid Vaccination Program came into effect from June 21, 2021. The key element under this is that the Government of India will procure 75% of the vaccines being produced by the manufacturers in the country. The vaccines will be provided free of cost to all citizens at the Government Vaccination Centres. Here is a ready reckoner that busts conspiracy theories that can fuel dangerous vaccine hesitancy.

Q) Can breastfeeding mothers get vaccinated?

A) Yes. According to WHO’s Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan, “Women who breastfeed can and should take the vaccine.” Vaccines do not contain the live virus in it and “there is no risk involved”.  Dr Swaminathan says that the babies may also be protected as traces of the vaccine “can go through the breast milk to the baby”. Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JPIMER) has also stated in its latest study that lactating mothers should get vaccinated against Covid. It added that, “Coronavirus is usually not transmitted through breast milk. In fact, “The baby will receive antibodies against Coronavirus through breastmilk.”

The complete JIPMER guidelines may be read here:

 

Q) Should pregnant women get vaccinated?

A) Pregnant women are at higher risk of getting severe Covid, says Dr Swaminathan, and can also be at higher risk of premature delivery. According to her, if a woman is exposed to the virus, or if she’s a frontline worker whose has a high risk of getting the infection, “The benefits of getting the vaccine definitely outweigh the risks, particularly since the platforms that we used currently for vaccines are the mRNA platform, inactivated viruses or the viral vectored platforms or subunit proteins.” According to her, pregnant women should be made aware of “the benefits versus the risks and be offered the vaccine.”

Q) Does the vaccine affect fertility?

A) “These vaccines in no way interfere with fertility,” says Dr Soumya Swaminathan adding that “there is absolutely no scientific evidence” that vaccines interfere with fertility in men or in women. This is a “common myth” that needs to be nipped in the bud, experts say.

Q) Does Covaxin contain newborn calf serum?

A) NO! Bharat Biotech’s vaccine against Covid-19, Covaxin, DOES NOT contain newborn calf serum. The Union Ministry of Health says, “Facts have been twisted and misrepresented” and that “newborn Calf Serum is used only for preparation/ growth of vero cells. Different kinds of bovine and other animal serums are standard enrichment ingredients used globally for vero cell growth. Vero cells are used to establish cell lines which help in production of vaccines. This technique has been used for decades in Polio, Rabies, and Influenza vaccines. These vero cells, after the growth, are washed with water, with chemicals (also technically known as buffer), many times to make it free from the newborn calf serum.” For more information visit: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1727462

Q) Can vaccines make your body magnetic?

A) No, they cannot! This is the latest, and the most absurd of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Covid-19 vaccines. These rumours continue to still be shared on Whatsapp groups and on social media, along with videos as “proof”. However, the government’s Press Information Bureau’s (PIB) fact-checking had debunked it and called these claims “baseless”. “Vaccines cannot cause a magnetic reaction in the human body. Covid-19 vaccines are completely safe and do not contain any metal-based ingredients. It is common to experience mild side-effects like mild headaches, pain or swelling at the injection site, and mild fever after getting the Covid-19 vaccine,” the PIB stated, asking citizens to “not fall prey to misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines and get vaccinated.”

Do your bit to flatten the curve, safeguard your health and that of others. Register on https://www.cowin.gov.in/home and book your vaccination appointment today!
Feature image by Pippa Ranger/Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons.

Related:

An Indian’s right to vaccination amidst a global pandemic

FAQs about Covid-19 vaccination

 

 

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