Vaccine safe for pregnant, breastfeeding mums

KUCHING: There is no reason to think that the vaccine will not protect pregnant and breastfeeding women from Covid-19, said associate professor Dr Helmy Hazmi.

The Public Health Physician of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) also pointed out there was no reason to think that the vaccine will have severe side effects on pregnant and breastfeeding women.  

“To think that the vaccine will have severe side effects on pregnant and breastfeeding women is not accurate because the mRNA will break down quickly and cleared away after injection, and will not be passed on to the foetus or breast milk.

“So, it is relatively safe for use in pregnant women and in mothers who are breastfeeding. Pregnant mothers or mothers who breastfeed are advised to discuss the matter with their health care provider. This is especially for those mothers who fall in the high risk group.

“At the same time, please keep to the key points in reducing the chance of infection – wear mask, practise social distancing, avoid crowded places, practise hand hygiene,” he said when contacted by New Sarawak Tribune on Wednesday.

Asked whether pregnant women should take the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, he said at the moment, there is not enough data to show the safety and effectiveness of the mRNA vaccine on pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding their children.

“WHO has stated that pregnant women and breastfeeding women who are at risk, for example health care workers, should be considered for the mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech) after discussion with their healthcare providers.

“This is because, if a mother is pregnant, and has a history of obesity, aged more than 35, has high blood pressure and are diabetics, she is at risk to have a poor outcome if infected with Covid-19.

“In addition, the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women. Those with history of severe allergic reaction to any vaccine should not receive the vaccine.  

“Live vaccines are contraindicated for pregnant mothers, and such vaccines should not be given,” he added.

Thus, since the data on the use of mRNA vaccine are still lacking at the moment, Dr Helmy said it was justifiable if pregnant and breastfeeding women defer from taking the vaccine.

He reiterated that pregnant mother who falls into the high risk group should discuss further with their health care provider on the need to be vaccinated with mRNA vaccine.

“In the case of breastfeeding women, Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of the UK also now advises that there is no known risk in giving these vaccines to breastfeeding women. 

“Breastfeeding women should therefore be offered vaccination if they are otherwise eligible, for example if they are a frontline health or social care worker, including a carer in a residential home.

“Women should be advised that there is lack of safety data for these specific vaccinations in breastfeeding,” he said.