Over 2.27 lakh pregnant women have received their first dose of anti-coronavirus vaccine under the ongoing national COVID-19 inoculation drive, the Union health ministry said on Friday.
This can be seen as a result of regular counselling of pregnant women by health workers and medical officers about risks of the infection and benefits of vaccination, it said.
This sustained campaign has empowered pregnant women to make an informed choice on COVID vaccination, the ministry said.
Tamil Nadu is leading the way by vaccinating over 78,838 pregnant women, it said.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The ministry also said that 34,228 pregnant women have been vaccinated in Andhra Pradesh, 29,821 in Odisha, 21,842 in Madhya Pradesh, 18,423 in Kerala and 16,673 in Karnataka.
As part of the campaign to dispel fears, apprehensions, misinformation and some social taboos and issues, a guidance note to assist states and union territories (UTs) in operationalising the COVID vaccination programme for pregnant women was shared by the Union health ministry on July 2.
This was followed up by training of programme managers, service providers and frontline health workers to equip them to counsel pregnant women and their families during antenatal care about the importance of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, the ministry said in a statement.
States and UTs sensitised their vaccination teams at government and private COVID vaccination centres (CVCs) regarding inoculation of pregnant women, it said.
Several initiatives have been taken by states to encourage pregnant women take vaccine. These include special vaccination sessions for pregnant women, the statement said.
Counselling of eligible beneficiaries by frontline workers and counsellors at antenatal clinics and mobilisation by ASHAs for vaccination have resulted in building confidence and acceptance in the community, it said.
Innovative practices like issuing certificate by a deputy commissioner to pregnant and lactating women who were first to get themselves vaccinated was also among the initiatives to build acceptance in the community.
Studies have shown that COVID-19 infection during pregnancy may result in rapid deterioration of health of pregnant women and escalating the increased risk of severe disease, and might affect the foetus too.
Pregnant women with COVID-19 infection are at an increased risk for preterm birth and other adverse pregnancy outcomes, including higher chances of neonatal morbidity, the ministry said.
Experts have also highlighted pre-existing co-morbidities, advanced maternal age, and high body mass index as factors for severe COVID-19 in pregnancy.
The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) had recommended vaccination for pregnant women. The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) had also unanimously recommended it earlier.
A national level consultation on COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women was also convened by the ministry to build consensus, the statement said
Professional bodies like FOGSI, representatives of state governments, CSOs, NGOs, development partner agencies, technical experts., participated in this consultation, it said.
The recommendation of NTAGI to vaccinate pregnant women was unanimously welcomed, the statement said.
The combined effort of the Centre, states and UTs and other stakeholders is helping in building confidence among pregnant women and their families with increased uptake of COVID-19 vaccination thus, helping in protecting two lives from the risk of infection.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.