THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Covid vaccine hesitancy is on the rise among pregnant women, despite the benefits it offers in preventing severity of the infection during pregnancy, health experts have said. This, they said, was evident from the spike in calls made by pregnant women and families to enquire about the safety of the vaccines.
The spike came in the wake of the deaths of three young women, including a pregnant one, after getting the jab, in the last week of August. They have urged the government to launch an awareness campaign to convince pregnant women about the benefits of vaccination.
“We used to receive calls when the vaccination for pregnant women started. The frequency of calls reduced when people started accepting the vaccine. Now, it has gone up again,” said Dr Sheeja Sugunan, superintendent of Sree Avittam Thirunal Hospital (SAT) Hospital, which treats some of the complex diseases affecting mothers and children.
She has advised pregnant women to take the vaccine without delay as the its benefits far outweigh its risks. “Covid infection during pregnancy increases the risk of mortality for the mother and child. For the child, it is in the form of preterm labour or abortion,” she said.
Professor of paediatrics at MES Medical College Dr Purushothaman Kuzhikkathukandiyil said, “The concerns are natural. But there is no doubt that pregnant women should be vaccinated.” He said while the Covid first wave claimed the lives of seven mothers, over 75 expectant mothers died in the second wave. The infection also led to birth of premature babies with low weight.
The deaths among the three young women were related to blood clots leading to bleeding in the brain and it was too early to blame the vaccines, said health experts. “Both vaccines and pregnancy can cause blood clots in the brain (Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis). It is a rare complication. What we know for sure is that Covid infection can complicate pregnancy. So, there should not be hesitancy,” said Dr Sheeja. The experts were unanimous about the need to get vaccinated and said those willing should be allowed to take the jab of their choice. At present, the majority of people has taken Covishield or Covaxin. They said the efficacy and safety data of both vaccines were inversely related.
“It is true that several European countries have halted giving Covishield to people aged below 40. Also, the recommended gap between two Covishield doses is 84 days while it takes just four weeks in the case of Covaxin,” said Dr Purushothaman.