“We knew this was just a matter of time because we had put up a very strong advocacy on the need to vaccinate these women, citing that the benefits largely outweigh the theoretical risks. We welcome this policy change,” said Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) vice-president Basab Mukherjee, a gynaecologist.
FOGSI had been lobbying with the health ministry to allow the jab for pregnant women even though they had not been part of any clinical trial. “The number of pregnant women infected with severe Covid in the second wave has been much higher than in the first wave and there have been some deaths as well. So, when the government said yes to inoculating new mothers, we started looking forward to the inclusion of pregnant women,” said Bengal Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society’s Bhaskar Pal.
Doctors said it is a challenge to manage a pregnant Covid patient. For example, a 31-year-old whose oxygen saturation level had gone down could not be proned or made to lie on her chest as she was 33 weeks pregnant. She died the day after an emergency C-section and the baby is still in NICU. In another case, a 35-year-old in the 34th week of pregnancy with severe Covid infection died at a private hospital after an emergency C-section.
“A pregnant woman is three times more at risk of severe infection than others,” said Mukherjee.
The health ministry has also said that each pregnant woman coming to take the shot should be explained the likely adverse reactions and that it has not been established if the vaccine is safe for the foetus. “We have seen mothers with severe Covid pneumonia during the second wave needing emergency C-sections, leading to the birth of preterm babies. Women should take vaccines during the early part of pregnancy under the supervision of a gynaecologist,” said Fortis Hospital paediatrician Rajesh Kumar Singh.
Doctors assured that the vaccine is safe for expecting mothers and there is an eagerness among them to take the jab. “We are waiting for written guideline,” said Pal.