Home / News / World /  WHO recommends jabs for pregnant women, but India is still cautious

An interim guidance by the World Health Organization (WHO) to permit vaccination of pregnant women when its benefits outweigh potential risks has cleared the way for India to expand its immunization drive to this sub-group. The global health agency last week said pregnant women may be vaccinated if they face high risk of exposure to covid, and if they have co-morbid conditions.

India has so far been conservative in vaccinating pregnant women citing lack of clinical trial data, even though many countries have begun vaccinating them.

Vinod Paul, member (health) of NITI Aayog and chair of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for covid-19 (NEGVAC), last week said that as of now, covid-19 vaccines should not be given to pregnant women and India will clarify the situation in a few days based on new scientific inputs. He said the vaccines have been developed in a very short span of time, and pregnant women are not usually included in initial trials due to safety concerns. However, the government indicated that the full clinical trial data for Covaxin and Covishield will be ready soon, following which it may grant approvals. Gynaecologists have been urging the Indian government to vaccinate pregnant women, potentially a large and high-risk population with decreased immunity which should be vaccinated at the earliest.

“By vaccinating pregnant women, we not only protect pregnant women and child, but also all the people they come in contact with. Apart from this, the recent wave has shown us that pregnant women are getting severely affected. Morbidity and mortality seem to be much higher than what we had anticipated. Hence, it is always a wise option to consider vaccinating pregnant women," said Archana Dhawan Bajaj, a Delhi-based gynaecologist at Nurture IVF Clinic.

“Covid-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer should be brought to India at the earliest as a priority, because they have been tested on pregnant women in the US. They have found no detrimental effects of the use of vaccines on pregnant women and unborn child. However, since it may not be logistically possible to vaccinate all with Moderna and Pfizer, the need of the hour is also to evaluate Covaxin and Covishield as possible alternatives for vaccinating pregnant women within the country," she said.

The WHO has said that pregnant women should be informed about the risks of covid-19 in pregnancy, likely benefits of vaccination in the local epidemiologic context, and current limitations of the safety data in pregnant women.

“The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) recommends that vaccination for pregnant women should be approved, given that 5% of our population are expectant moms. This is the only segment above 18 years who do not have the right to vaccination. In fact, it should be after proper counselling and informed consent," said Nupur Gupta, director, department of obstetrics and gynaecology, Gurugram Fortis Memorial Research Institute.

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