Pregnant women and those who are planning to conceive are encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

This is according to the recommendation by the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on COVID-19 Vaccines, which continues to monitor the safety and effectiveness of inoculation during pregnancy and lactation for all vaccines included in and considered in the country’s rollout programme.

“Although the risk is small, pregnant and postnatal women are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease compared to their non-pregnant counterparts,” read the updated circular on the vaccination for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

In addition, the circular, signed by the Health department’s Deputy Director-General, Dr Nicholas Crisp, said expecting women face an increased risk of preterm birth and other adverse obstetric outcomes.

“As a result of the growing body of safety evidence that supports the use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women, MAC has recently updated its recommendations regarding the administration of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy.”

The current recommendations have advised that both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) jabs can be offered.

“Everyone 18 years and older is now eligible to be vaccinated and women 18 years and older should therefore be offered vaccination during any stage of pregnancy and breastfeeding.”

In addition, the MAC has suggested that consideration should be given to providing jabs to pregnant and breastfeeding women during routine antenatal and postnatal visits.

However, where it is impossible, mothers-to-be should be directed to their nearest vaccination sites.

“Healthcare workers are encouraged to discuss the benefits and possible risks of COVID-19 vaccination with their patients.”

These discussions, according to the Department of Health should include the increased risk in pregnant women when compared to non-pregnant women, growing evidence supporting the safety of vaccines, strong immune response following vaccination and the benefits of immune transfer to the baby, and ongoing safety monitoring of vaccine use in pregnancy.

In addition, there are no known risks associated with other “non-live” vaccines given routinely to pregnant women.

“COVID-19 vaccination is strongly encouraged for non-pregnant women contemplating pregnancy,” the circular stressed.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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