NEW DELHI: The Union Health Ministry has prepared a fact-sheet to guide frontline workers and vaccinators on counselling pregnant women about the value and precautions of the COVID-19 vaccine so that they can make an informed decision.
Although more than 90 per cent infected pregnant women recover without any need for hospitalisation, rapid deterioration in health may occur in a few and that might affect the foetus also, the document said.
"It is, therefore, advised that a pregnant woman should take COVID-19 vaccine," it said.
However, pregnancy does not increase the risk of COVID-19 infection, the document stressed.
Symptomatic pregnant women appear to be at an increased risk of severe disease and death.
In case of severe disease, like all other patients, pregnant women shall also need hospitalisation.
Pregnant women with underlying medical conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, age over 35 years are at a higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, the fact sheet said.
According to the document, a frontline worker or a vaccinator needs to counsel pregnant women about the availability, value and precautions of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"This note provides you with the information that you need to educate and support pregnant women so that they can make an informed decision about getting the COVID-19 vaccine," the note said .
The note is structured in the form of questions-answers to make it easier for frontline workers to inform pregnant women and their families about the most important issues related to COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant women.
The note stated that over 95 per cent newborns of COVID-19 positive mothers have been in good condition at birth.
In some cases, COVID-19 infections in pregnancy may increase the possibility of premature delivery, the baby's weight might be less than 2.5 kg and in rare situations, the baby might die before birth, it said.
It said pregnant women, older than 35 years of age, obese, having a pre-existing illness such as diabetes or high blood pressure and having a history of clotting in the limbs are at a higher risk of developing complications after COVID-19 infection.
In case a woman has been infected with COVID-19 during the current pregnancy, then she should be vaccinated soon after the delivery, the document stated.
On the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, the fact-sheet stated that the COVID-19 vaccines available are safe and vaccination protects pregnant women against COVID-19 illness/disease like other individuals.
Like any medicine, a vaccine may have side effects which are normally mild.
After getting the vaccine injection, a pregnant woman can get mild fever, pain at the injection site or feel unwell for 1-3 days.
The long-term adverse effects and safety of the vaccine for foetus and child is not established yet.
"Very rarely (one in 1-5 lakh persons), the pregnant women may experience some symptoms within 20 days after getting the COVID-19 vaccination which may require immediate attention," it said.
Symptoms occurring within 20 days after receiving any COVID-19 vaccine may include shortness of breath (difficulty in breathing), persistent abdominal pain with or without vomiting , pain in limbs/pain on pressing limbs or swelling in the limb, small pinpoint haemorrhages or bruising of skin beyond the injection site, weakness/paralysis of limbs or any particular side of the body, severe and persistent headaches with or without vomiting (in absence of history of migraine or chronic headache) Seizures with or without vomiting (in the absence of previous history of seizures) among others are possible.
In order to protect themselves and those around from spreading the COVID-19 infection, pregnant woman and her family members should practice COVID-19 appropriate behaviour like wearing a double mask, practising frequent hand hygiene and maintaining physical distance and avoid crowded places.
All pregnant women need to register themselves on the Co-WIN portal or may get themselves registered on-site at the COVID-19 vaccination centre.