With the news that the highly effective Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is set to be rolled out across the UK next week, the government has published documents with details of the vaccine, what it contains and its possible side effects.
Within these documents, advice is specifically issued for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy.
Can pregnant women get the vaccine?
The government states, “There is no data as yet on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines in pregnancy, either from human or animal studies.
“Given the lack of evidence, JCVI favours a precautionary approach, and does not currently advise Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy.”
Women who might be pregnant, or are planning a pregnancy within three months of the first dose, are advised not to come forward for vaccination.
“Data are anticipated which will inform discussion on vaccination in pregnancy. JCVI will review these as soon as they become available,” the government said in a statement.
What about women who are breastfeeding?
The government says that “a risk to newborns/infants cannot be excluded” and that the vaccine “should not be used during breastfeeding”.
However, guidelines from Public Health England states that “pregnant women at high risk (including healthcare workers) should be offered vaccines as soon as possible after completion of pregnancy.”
‘Don’t have the data’
Answering questions from the public on the BBC, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonthan Van-Tam said that none of the vaccine trials deliberately included pregnant women, however there were women who volunteered for the trial who then became pregnant.
Professor Van-Tam explained that the vaccine manufacturers will monitor these women and their babies in their early years.
He added, “So, from that perspective, this is covered. But, right now, do we have the data in pregnant women to understand the use of any of these vaccines in pregnant women? No, we don’t.
“Does the JCVI suggest that pregnant women should be vaccinated? No, it does not, and that isn’t a sign that the JCVI, or me, have seen some terrible problem.
“It’s a definite sign that we don’t have the data at this point and therefore, safety first, always being cautious, even though there may well be no problem at all. Nevertheless, safety first.”
Will children get the vaccination?
The government says that, following Covid-19 infection, almost all children have asymptomatic or mild symptoms, and at this time there is very limited data on vaccination in adolescents, and no data on vaccination in younger children.
“The committee advises that only those children at very high risk of exposure and serious outcomes, such as older children with severe neuro-disabilities that require residential care, should be offered vaccination,” according to official guidelines.