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Vaccinate Pregnant Women, New Mothers To Address Rising Covid19 Cases: ICMR

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Jun 17, 2021

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More symptomatic cases and fatalities were recorded among pregnant and postpartum women during the second Covid19 wave in comparison to last year, according to a new study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The comparative study was conducted on a total of 1,530 women. Although the sample size is small, the findings prompted the ICMR to recommend vaccinating women in this demographic against Covid19. 

“The study underlines the importance of vaccination of pregnant and lactating women against Covid19,” the ICMR said in a statement. While this finding is in line with a national trend of higher cases and mortality rates across all demographics, experts have spotlighted the need to vaccinate pregnant women and new mothers amid rising concerns of variant spread.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated earlier this year that pregnant women are at higher risk of severe disease from Covid19. In general, studies show that pregnant women are 50% more likely to experience complications due to Covid19 and have a higher risk of death. 


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Pregnant women have decreased immunity and are anyway considered a high-risk category. During the pandemic, there have been more reports of complications during the second and third trimesters — because of the uterus expanding to push against the diaphragm that further compromises people’s lung capacity, according to Ruma Satwik, a Delhi-based gynecologist.

The WHO recommended vaccines for pregnant people with co-morbidities and for those who face a high risk of exposure.

The current government guidelines do not allow pregnant women to get vaccinated, citing a lack of data from clinical trials. The two vaccines which India is currently administering – Covishield and Covaxin – have not been tested on this demographic.

While acknowledging the limited data on the effects of vaccines on pregnant and lactating women, the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) nevertheless recommended that the vaccines be administered to this demographic.

“The very real benefits of vaccinating pregnant and lactating women seem to far outweigh any theoretical and remote risks of vaccination,” the Federation said, after considering growing evidence of the vaccine’s safety from across the world.

The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), a national panel for Covid19, advised last month that lactating women be administered the jab, and pregnant women are offered the choice of taking the vaccine. Following this, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has allowed lactating women to get vaccinated — but has not yet given its approval for pregnant women.  

With concerns over the new Covid19 variants, many experts in India are pushing for vaccinations to open up for pregnant women — provided that they are fully informed about the side effects and there are adequate counseling procedures in place.

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Written By Rohitha Naraharisetty

Rohitha Naraharisetty is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. Previously, she was a freelance writer and independent researcher working in the intersection of gender, social movements, and international relations. She can be found on Instagram at @rohitha_97 or on Twitter at @romimacaronii.

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