COVID-19 VACCINATION during pregnancy and breastfeeding is considered safe for both mother and baby.
Although the risk is small, pregnant and postnatal women are at increased risk of severe Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), compared to non-pregnant women.
According to the Vaccine Ministerial Advisory Committee (VMAC), pregnant women who contract COVID-19 also have an increased risk of preterm birth and other complications.
As a result of the growing body of safety evidence that supports the use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women, the VMAC recently updated its recommendations regarding the administration of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy.
The new recommendations state that COVID-19 vaccination should be offered to eligible women. In South Africa, eligible women are those aged 18 and over, during any stage of pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Both the Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson vaccines can be offered to these groups of women.
Some of the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women, which outweigh any known or potential risks, are the strong immune response following vaccination and immune transfer to the baby.
The Centre for Disease Control says women who fell pregnant after receiving their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine that requires two doses, should get their second shot to get as much protection from the virus as possible.
In addition, it says that there is currently no evidence that any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.
Breastfeeding and the vaccination
The World Health Organisation and South African Health Products Regulatory Authority recommend that breastfeeding women get vaccinated against COVID-19. They also recommend that these women continue to breastfeed after vaccination.
As none of the COVID-19 vaccines use a live virus, getting vaccinated cannot infect you or your breastfeeding baby with the virus.
There is also some evidence that, after vaccination, antibodies are found in breastmilk, which may help protect the baby against COVID-19.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit www.sacoronavirus.co.za.