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Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for pregnant patients?

26 July 2021 | Avant Media

In a climate where there are conflicting messages on vaccinations for pregnant or post-partum patients, Avant recently hosted a webinar in partnership with RANZCOG on the COVID-19 vaccine.

Joined by Professor Kristine Macartney and A/Professor Michelle Giles from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), and RANZCOG president Dr Vijay Roach, the webinar provided clarity for obstetricians and GPs on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnant women.

Joint statement on COVID-19 vaccinations for pregnant women

RANZCOG and ATAGI have released a joint statement on COVID-19 vaccinations for pregnant women. They have recommended that pregnant women be routinely offered the Pfizer vaccine at any stage of pregnancy, whether it’s before, during or after. This is because the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 is significantly higher for pregnant women and their unborn baby.

The statement also confirms that global surveillance data from large numbers of pregnant women have not identified any significant safety concerns with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines given at any stage of pregnancy. There is also evidence of antibodies in cord blood and breastmilk, which may offer protection to infants through passive immunity.

According to Dr Roach, pregnant women are often excluded from clinical trials, so guidelines and recommendations are developed in the absence of data on pregnant women. However, due to emerging evidence about the severity of COVID-19 it is important to consider who’s at risk.

A/Prof Michelle Giles confirms that ATAGI and RANZCOG’s decision to release a joint statement was in part due to the accumulation of evidence about the severity of disease in pregnant women with COVID-19. RANZCOG states pregnant women are potentially at increased risk of complications from respiratory disease due to the physiological changes that occur in pregnancy, and A/Prof Giles highlighted the risks of severe disease and admission to hospital, particularly during the second and third trimesters.

Avant works closely with RANZCOG on a variety of initiatives to better understand the evolving practices of obstetricians and gynaecologists. There is a key focus on education to reduce medico-legal risk and improve patient outcomes.

Key takeaways from the panelists:

  • While all vaccines can cause side effects, there has been no evidence of harm to the baby or mother and a lot of reassuring data on the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women. Historically, there hasn’t been any study that shows vaccination is unsafe in breastfeeding women.
  • When talking about risks/benefits with patients, it’s important to document all advice given during consultations and discuss the risks associated with vaccination.
  • While COVID-19 is an extraordinary circumstance, it is worth drawing comparison to other vaccines. Other vaccines given during pregnancy such as the influenza or pertussis vaccine, do not cause more side effects in pregnant women or their babies.
  • The experts confirmed evidence shows COVID-19 vaccinations are safe and the best way to protect our community from COVID-19. Have confidence to discuss these vaccines in the same way you would approach any other vaccine.

Resources

ATAGI/RANZCOG joint statement

RANZCOG - COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant and breastfeeding women

Clinical manifestations, risk factors, and maternal and perinatal outcomes of COVID-19 in pregnancy – BMJ living systematic review and meta-analysis

V-safe website

Australian short-term vaccine profiles

Australian Government Department of Health – Shared decision-making guide

More information

View the webinar in its entirety on Avant’s YouTube channel.


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