Health professionals should advise pregnant women to take the vaccines against the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), Vaccination Task Force members Dr. Isabelle Dehaene (Ghent University Hospital) and Dr. Frédéric Debiève said on Saturday at the group’s weekly press briefing.
The recommendation differs from that of the Conseil supérieur de la santé (CSS – Higher Council of Health), which does not recommend the systematic vaccination of pregnant women.
“There is no reason to feel the vaccine would not be effective or that it would be dangerous,” said Debiève, who is Head of Obstetrics at the Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc, and a member of the Royal College of French-speaking Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Belgium.
The two experts on high-risk pregnancies refer to a study on over 4,000 pregnant European and American women infected with COVID-19 or suspected to be carrying the virus to back up their recommendation.
According to the study, COVID-19 leads to a 60% increase in premature births, particularly between 32 and 37 weeks into a pregnancy. The virus also leads to higher maternal mortality.
On the other hand, there is no known risk for expectant mothers linked to the vaccine. “A malaise or fever is possible, but these effects are brief and can be resolved with rest or paracetamol,” the experts said. “There is a wide experience of administering other vaccines during pregnancy.”
“Vaccination prevents severe forms of COVID-19 and premature births as well as maternal and perinatal mortality,” they noted further. “Moreover, the antibodies are passed on during pregnancy and breastfeeding, which protects the baby.”
The Task Force called on women who are thinking of becoming pregnant to accept vaccination. “There is no risk of reduced fertility,” the two gynaecologists stressed.
For its part, the Higher Council of Health feels the AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are not systematically recommended for pregnant women. However, it feels they could be envisaged for women in whom the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its potential risks, such as health workers.
On the other hand, the CSS does not object to the systematic vaccination of women of child-bearing age or those who wish to be pregnant. It also says that all nursing mothers should be given the vaccine.