In the fight against Covid-19, vaccines play a vital role in shielding people from any fatalities. Fertility specialist Dr Sumithra Devi Valiapan encourages pregnant women to get protected by getting the complete jab.
Benefits far outweigh the risks
Ever since Covid-19 became a part of our lives in 2020, we have learned to live with the consequences and complications it comes with. But nothing hurts the most like watching our comrades succumbing to the virus. In mid-2021, as we saw the spike in cases due to the Delta variant, Malaysians were alarmed by the number of pregnant women who died due to Covid-19.
As of September 16, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin shared that there were 144 pregnant women among the Covid-19 fatalities.
According to him, all the pregnant women who succumbed to the virus had not completed their full Covid-19 vaccination.
“Between March and July 2021, a total of 5,636 pregnant women were confirmed positive for Covid-19 while the number of those who died due to Covid-19 up until September 14 is 144,” he said.
Pregnant women are more susceptible
Sunfert International Fertility Centre, Fertility Specialist Dr Sumithra Devi Valiapan shared that pregnant women were more vulnerable and susceptible to severe Covid-19 infections.
“This is evident, especially amongst pregnant women who are in the late second and third trimesters of their pregnancies.”
The Fertility Specialist advises pregnant mothers to receive their vaccination as it has been proven to reduce the severity of illness, need for hospitalisation, ICU admission, requiring breathing assistance and, more importantly, death.
“The majority of pregnant women will show no signs of infection. However, a larger proportion of pregnant women, compared to the general non-pregnant population, will end up needing breathing assistance or ventilation and require termination of their pregnancy, usually by caesarean section.”
Elaborating on how this would affect the baby born prematurely due to the complications, Dr Sumithra explained that prematurity would lead to immature organ systems.
“And some babies may have permanent disabilities. Sadly, there is also a higher risk of stillbirth in babies of women with Covid-19.”
Nonetheless, pregnant mothers who opted out of getting vaccinated should be mindful, she said.
“At the very least, this group of mothers should practise all the safety precautions like double masking, using face shields, physical distancing and hand hygiene to protect themselves, as well as those around them.”
With concerns arising from which vaccines were the best for pregnant women, Dr Sumithra opined that during this pandemic, the benefits of vaccination far outweighed the risks.
“What this means is, contracting the infection and developing complications are far more dangerous than getting vaccinated.”
In sharing further, Dr Sumithra lamented misinformation and misconceptions about the vaccines that were encouraging pregnant women to decline them.
“This is very unfortunate as pregnant women who decline are at risk of life-threatening illness from Covid-19 infection.”
With that said, the Fertility Specialist said that all Malaysian Ministry of Health (MoH) approved vaccines were safe for pregnant women.
“The multinational safety data on Covid-19 vaccination in pregnant women have thus far been very reassuring.”
Though there is no specific long term data on the effects of the new vaccines, Dr Sumithra held onto the safety data on other widely used non-live vaccines like the flu vaccine, which was similar to the Covid-19 vaccine.
“And they have been used in pregnancy and have not shown any substantial cause for concern.”
“There is a large data set on the effects of the Covid-19 vaccination in pregnant women, which largely indicates that side effects are rare, mild and self-limiting. They cause no harm to pregnant women or their babies. Reports of serious side effects like severe allergic reactions or the formation of blood clots have been very rare,” she added.
Vaccines do not cross over to the foetus
When the vaccines were made available for pregnant women mid-year, there were rumours spread across the globe that the Covid-19 vaccine could cause harm to the foetus.
On the contrary, Dr Sumithra said that vaccines did not cross into the foetus. “Therefore, do not accord the baby its immunity to Covid-19. Some antibodies which form after the mother is vaccinated might enter the baby’s circulation via the umbilical cord or breast milk. It may offer a small amount of protection but there isn’t robust data on this.”
She also added that the vaccine side effects were usually mild and included pain at the injection site, flu-like symptoms or fatigue. With that, Dr Sumithra encouraged all pregnant women and all individuals to complete their vaccinations in the fight against Covid-19.