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Pregnant women have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and their babies also have a higher risk of being born prematurely. Vaccination is the best way to reduce these risks.
Health experts are now recommending pregnant women receive the Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine at any stage during their pregnancy and are considered a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination.
On Friday July 23, ATAGI confirmed that pregnant women have now been added to phase 1B, with information being sent to GPs saying the change was effective immediately.
It means that pregnant women, regardless of their age, are now able to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
“All pregnant women, regardless of their stage of pregnancy and whether they are eligible for other reasons or not, can access their vaccine through primary care channels,” the Department of Health’s Lucas de Toca told a Senate committee on Friday afternoon.
According to the Australian Government Department of Health, AstraZeneca can be considered for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy, if they cannot access the Pfizer vaccine and if the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks (ie. in a low level outbreak area) for that individual.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe during pregnancy? Yes!
Last month, the expert health panel who advise the government on the vaccine, ATAGI, and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) said in a joint statement:
“RANZCOG and ATAGI recommend that pregnant women are routinely offered Pfizer mRNA vaccine at any stage of pregnancy.
“This is because the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 is significantly higher for pregnant women and their unborn baby.”
If you’ve already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, your second dose can be either the AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccine. Pfizer is preferred because of the amount of safety data available.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination is safe during pregnancy.
Can pregnant women access the vaccine? This is tricky.
With the exception of Tasmania or the Northern Territory, pregnant women under 40 in the rest of Australia are currently ineligible to get the Pfizer vaccine because they are not considered a priority group by the federal government.
However, some women are getting access to the vaccine by meeting other eligibility criteria, for example they have an underlying medical condition or they are an essential worker.
Why wasn’t the COVID-19 vaccination earlier?
Earlier in the pandemic there was limited evidence confirming the safety of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy, as pregnant women were not included in the first clinical trials.
But, now the advice has changed. Thanks to the evidence from other countries, Pfizer is considered safe during pregnancy.
Earlier in the pandemic there was limited evidence confirming the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
Is the COVID-19 vaccination safe for unborn babies?
A US study of over 35,000 pregnant women who had a COVID-19 vaccine did not identify any safety concerns.
Research also showed pregnant women have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 (including being hospitalised and admitted to ICU), and their babies also have a higher risk of being born prematurely.
Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccination while breastfeeding?
For breastfeeding women, the Pfizer vaccine is also recommended however The Royal Australian College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) says the AstraZeneca vaccine can be given to breastfeeding women.
“Vaccination is recommended for breastfeeding women. You do not need to stop breastfeeding before or after vaccination. Either Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine is considered safe,” RANZCOG’s Covid-19 vaccine guidelines state.
“The mRNA in Pfizer or Moderna is rapidly broken down in the body and does not appear to pass into breastmilk. The viral vector in AstraZeneca cannot cause infection.”
There is also evidence to suggest that breastfeeding women who have had the vaccine may pass on antibodies through breastmilk which may offer some protection to your baby.
Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccination while trying to conceive?
For women who are trying to become pregnant, health officials say there is no need to delay vaccination or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination.
Vaccination does not affect fertility, and getting vaccinated before conceiving will lead to protection against COVID-19 during your pregnancy.