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Pregnant and lactating women should be vaccinated against COVID-19, says ICMR study

India has not begun vaccination of pregnant women, citing lack of clinical trial data

Representative image | PTI Representative image | PTI

A new study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has underlined the importance of vaccination of pregnant and lactating women against COVID-19. India has not yet begun vaccination of pregnant women, citing lack of clinical trial data.

The ICMR study compared pregnant and postpartum women during the first wave (from April 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021) and the second wave (from February 1, 2021 to May 14, 2021).

Symptomatic cases were significantly higher at 28.7 per cent in the second wave compared to 14.2 per cent in the first wave, the study said.

“The case fatality rate (CFR) among pregnant women and postpartum women was 5.7 per cent during the second wave, which was significantly higher compared to the scenario encountered in the first wave with CFR 0.7 per cent,” it said.

According to the study, the total number of maternal deaths during both the waves of the pandemic were 2 per cent, of which majority were due to COVID-19 pneumonia and respiratory failure.

The COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all lactating women in India. However, the government has still not allowed vaccinating pregnant women citing lack of clinical trial data and the matter is under discussion by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI).

Last week, a pregnant woman approached the Delhi High Court seeking direction to the Centre to include pregnant women in COVID-19 vaccination drive on priority basis.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma and central government standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia said the NTAGI has issued a notification on May 28 in which various recommendations were made including that all pregnant women visiting antenatal care may be informed about the risks and benefits associated with the COVID-19 vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, available in the country.

The WHO last week had recommended vaccinating pregnant women if they face high risk of exposure to Covid, and if they have co-morbid conditions. 

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