After nearly a month since the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) announced that lactating women could also receive the Covid-19 vaccine, there is still a debate and widespread scepticism about whether the vaccine is safe for breastfeeding mothers. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) responded by stating that it was indeed encouraging lactating women and those who had recently given birth to take the vaccine. The vaccine, which has been successfully administered to pregnant and lactating women in countries such as China and the United Kingdom is yet to be fully assessed and implemented in India.
With the ongoing second Covid wave, vaccination campaigns are in high gear. Women who are pregnant constitute a sizable portion of the population in a densely populated country like India, and when lactating women are included, it accounts for more than six percent of the total female population. The Government has recommended vaccinating breastfeeding mothers with Covaxin and Covishield that are currently being administered in India to ensure their protection, even though this group of women were not part of any clinical studies or trials.
Is it safe for lactating mothers to get inoculated?
The safety of the vaccine has been a recurring discussion among expectant and new mothers. Doctors and experts have stated that they trust the vaccine and that it is safe for lactating mothers. Breastfeeding is also deemed completely safe post-Covid vaccination as it has not been observed to interfere with antibody production.
Hence, breastfeeding mothers are advised to get vaccinated as there are no proven risks associated with the vaccination. In fact, the antibodies produced after the vaccine may be passed on to the baby through breastmilk, and it may provide immunity to both the mother as well as the baby.
When can lactating mothers avail their shot?
Experts have stated that it is safe for pregnant women to get their shot right after delivery, as it would not affect the breast milk quality, the baby, or the normal bodily functions. However, there may be common post-vaccine side effects such as fever and slight tiredness.
Is it safe for pregnant women to take the vaccine yet?
Pregnant women have not been given a go-ahead for the vaccine yet due to a lack of safety data. Vaccines from other countries like Pfizer and Moderna have been given the green signal, and are being administered to pregnant and lactating women. Nonetheless, experts suggest that there is nothing to worry about in case one finds out they are pregnant right after being vaccinated. There are no known data or case studies as of now to prove that the vaccination affects fertility, menstrual cycles, or the quality of breastmilk.
What are the points to remember once the vaccine has been administered?
The vaccine may offer protection against severe Covid-19 infection and hospitalisation but there is a need to still follow Covid-appropriate behaviour even after vaccination including wearing a mask, avoiding crowded places and maintaining hand hygiene and social distancing.
Dr. Prakash Gambhir is Chief Medical Scientist at LifeCell
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