Women aged 18 and older can have Covid-19 vaccine at any stage of pregnancy

Pregnant women aged 18 and older can receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Stock photo.
Pregnant women aged 18 and older can receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Andor Bujdoso

Women who are 18 years and older can be offered Covid-19 vaccinations at any stage of pregnancy and during breastfeeding.

The health department has issued a circular confirming updated recommendations for this category of vaccine recipients.

Previously women had to wait for their age group to be eligible for vaccination, excluding those aged 18 to 35.

“Everyone 18 years and older is eligible to be vaccinated, and women 18 years and older should therefore be offered vaccination during any stage of pregnancy and during breastfeeding,” said the circular addressed to provincial health departments, hospital managers and vaccination site managers.

The department urged healthcare workers to encourage pregnant and breastfeeding women to access vaccinations at nearby sites.

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

“These discussions should include the increased risk, albeit small, of severe disease in pregnant women when compared to non-pregnant women, reassurance about the growing evidence supporting the safety of vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding women, the strong immune response after vaccination and benefits of immune transfer to the baby, and ongoing safety monitoring of vaccine use in pregnancy,” said the department.

Sunday Times reported earlier this month that deaths among pregnant women or those who had recently given birth shot up by 35% in the first wave of Covid-19 infections and by 40% in the second wave.

“Women who had Covid-19 during late pregnancy and the early post-partum period could get extremely ill, and global data published in the Lancet showed maternal mortality and stillbirths had increased during the pandemic,” reported the Sunday Times.

The circular said the vaccine ministerial advisory committee continued to monitor the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccination during pregnancy and lactation for all vaccines included or considered for inclusion in the national vaccine rollout.