The low rate of vaccination among pregnant women, despite mounting evidence that they face a higher risk of severe Covid-19, has the medical fraternity calling for greater awareness and confidence-building campaigns. According to available data, 2,582 pregnant women have been inoculated against the virus since July 15. Out of these, 1,350 expectant mothers were vaccinated at civic and state-run centres. Doctors believe fear, misconception and lack of local data on pregnancy outcomes for the mother and the child may be keeping women away.
A senior gynaecologist from KEM Hospital said pregnant women are at high risk of contracting severe coronavirus infection, which is enough cause for concern. To add to that, 50 per cent of pregnant women are deciding against inoculation despite being counselled, considering the morbidity seen among expectant mothers during the second wave in comparison to the first Covid wave.
The doctor said, “There is a significant percentage of vaccine hesitancy among pregnant women. They read studies and have queries on the possible side-effects of inoculation. We get several calls regarding this and have to counsel them on the importance of taking one.”
Civic officials agreed on the need for greater awareness as pregnancy is a period where there are changes in the immune response and women are more prone to infections. “They say they would rather take utmost care to ensure they don’t contract the infection. They are ready to isolate themselves, but won’t take the vaccine,” said an official from the civic health department.
Dr Danny Laliwala, consultant at the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, said Covid-19 vaccination is absolutely essential as the second dose will not only protect the mother from adverse effects of coronavirus, but also the foetus. She said pregnancy is associated with changes in the immune system and there is vasodilatation with fluid retention. “If a pregnant woman contracts Covid, the risk to her life is greater than a non-pregnant woman,” he said.
Dr Laliwala said over the past one and a half years, it has been found that pregnant women with Covid have higher chances of abortion, still birth, pre-term delivery and growth-restricted new-borns. These can be attributed to reduced blood supply through the placenta from the mother to the child, probably because of the micro clots in blood vessels. “With vaccination, the child is also protected as antibodies are transferred from the mother,” he said.
Busting the myth that vaccination can lead to foetal abnormality, Dr Laliwala said more and more of this information needs to reach the beneficiaries. “This can be done through newspapers, television and banners at clinics of general practitioners and obstetricians. Doctors should actively and repeatedly advise their patients accordingly,” he said, suggesting that they should be inoculated for free.
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