by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – “PAHO recommends that all pregnant women after their first trimester, as well as those who are breastfeeding, receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).
“So far more than 270,000 pregnant women have become sick with COVID in the Americans, and more than 2600 of them, or one percent of those infected, have died from the virus.”
Dr Etienne made those remarks during the September 8 press briefing on COVID-19 hosted by PAHO. She also suggested that pregnant women and lactating mothers be given priority in access to the vaccine.
Before August of this year, during the initial rollout of the vaccines globally, it was recommended that pregnant women not be vaccinated for fear of adverse effects on the mothers and possible miscarriages.
However, in mid-August 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Pregnant women should be vaccinated against COVID-19, based on a new analysis that did not show an increased risk for miscarriage. The CDC said it had found no safety concerns for pregnant people in the new analysis or earlier studies. Additionally, the World Health Organisation said that all vaccines approved for emergency use are safe for pregnant women.
Now health officials are urging pregnant women to get vaccinated because of the risk to those women contracting the coronavirus.
“Pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable time. Women’s immune systems change during pregnancy, leaving them at higher risk of respiratory infections like COVID-19. We know that if pregnant women become infected, they have a high risk of developing serious COVID symptoms and more frequently require ventilation and intensive care, as compared to women who are not pregnant. They also have a higher chance of delivering the baby early or prematurity,” shared Dr Etienne.
Medical officials also say pregnant women and lactating mothers can share their immunity to the virus with the baby by taking the vaccine, further protecting newborns.
The Director then reported on the pandemic’s impact regionally on the availability of prenatal care to pregnant women.
“The pandemic had a significant impact on the availability of prenatal care and other essential services. At least 40 percent of the countries in our region have reported disruptions to maternal and newborn care, and these disruptions have become more widespread during this second year of the pandemic. Some countries like Belize and Guatemala report that pregnancy-related care has been disrupted in over half of health sites.”
Here at home, health officials in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis have started recommending pregnant women be vaccinated after consulting with a doctor.
“In terms of the vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine, it will be administered to pregnant females who submit a letter from their attending obstetrician and gynaecologist, granting clearance. So if you’re pregnant and you’ve had this discussion with your OB-GYN specialist, you can submit a letter granting clearance, and you will receive the vaccine.”
Dr Etienne also mentioned that the non-pharmaceutical measures had been proven effective against the coronavirus and should not be forgotten even for vaccinated individuals.
“Wearing masks, maintaining social distance, limiting contact with people outside of their households, and avoiding indoor gatherings; these are especially important to keep expecting mothers safe from COVID.”