New Delhi: Pregnant women can now register on the CoWIN platform or visit vaccination centres for COVID-19 shots, the government said on Friday, adding that it had shared rules and procedures with states to roll out the programme.
Signalling a major policy shift that follows growing concern over exposure of expectant mothers (and their children) to the Coronavirus, the Union Health Ministry said last Friday that pregnant women “can and should” be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Until as recently as last month lactating women were eligible for the vaccine but pregnant women were not; the government had said this was due to a lack of safety and efficacy data since clinical trials for vaccines do not typically include pregnant women as participants.
“The Health Ministry has given guidelines that the vaccine can be given to pregnant women. Vaccination is useful for them and should be given,” Dr Balram Bhargava, Director-General of the Indian Council for Medical Research, said last week.
Vaccination for pregnant women was one of the topics discussed by the NTAGI, or National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, in May.
“Considering current situation of pandemic, NTAGI-STSC recommends pregnant women should not be excluded from vaccination because exposure probability is very high and therefore the benefit far outweighs the risk,” the committee said in the minutes of its May 28 meeting.
Doubts were raised about possible risks to the mother and/or child – including that of clotting (or thrombosis) with the Covishield jab, but the committee decided “benefit far outweighs the risk”.
“… before vaccination, pregnant women should be fully informed that long-term adverse reactions and safety of vaccine for fetus and child (has) not yet (been) established,” it added.
Making vaccines available for pregnant women was an issue flagged by Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, who said last month: “Why should any woman be kept out of the ambit of vaccination because of a biological process?”
However, vaccinating children (those below 18) is “still debatable until relevant data is available”, Dr Bhargava said today, in response to calls to vaccinate kids ahead of a possible third wave of infections.