Dr Faisal Sultan, the special assistant to prime minister (SAPM) on health, as well as experts of infectious diseases on Sunday urged the pregnant women in the country to get themselves vaccinated against Covid-19 to prevent themselves from getting ‘seriously sick’ due to the coronavirus infection.
They gave this advice to the pregnant women as a young pregnant dentist, who had not been vaccinated, died a day earlier on Saturday due to complications of the viral infection during treatment at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Malir.
“The pregnant women should get themselves vaccinated against COVID-19 and we have issued detailed guidelines in this regard, which are on the website of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS,R&C),” Dr Sultan said when asked about whether it was safe for the pregnant women to get the vaccine.
On the other hand, provincial health department officials confirmed that Flight Lieutenant Dr Mahnoor Farzand, who was admitted to the CMH in Malir Cantt for treatment of Covid-19, died due to multiple organ failure following the coronavirus infection. “She was eight-month pregnant and her unborn baby could not survive also,” an official of the Sindh health department confirmed to The News. He added that it had turned out that the young dentist, a graduate of the Baqai Medical University in Karachi who joined the Pakistan Air Force in 2019 as a flight lieutenant, had not been vaccinated against Covid-19, showing reluctance like many pregnant women around the world in getting the vaccine jabs.
The official said Dr Mahnoor was the daughter of a retired military officer. Her father, Colonel (retd) Farzand, had also tested positive for the infectious disease but he was on the path of recovery.
Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Secretary General Dr Qaiser Sajjad also confirmed that the deceased dentist had not been vaccinated. He lamented that so far 220 doctors in Pakistan had lost their lives due to Covid-19 and 77 of them died in Sindh.
Calling for vaccination of pregnant women, Dr Sajjad urged the federal and provincial health authorities to come up with a strong communication strategy to encourage the pregnant women to get themselves vaccinated and clear the misconceptions about vaccination during the pregnancy.
Commenting on the matter, Aga Khan University infectious diseases expert Dr Faisal Mehmood said vaccination was not only safe for the pregnant and lactating women but also strongly recommended.
“The pregnant women with Covid-19 are at an increased risk of preterm birth and might have increased risks for other poor pregnancy outcomes. The pregnant women with Covid-19 are almost three times more likely to go to the ICU, be on the ventilator and die compared to pregnant women without the SARS-Cov-2 infection,” he remarked.
Dr Mehmood also maintained that newborns of mothers with Covid-19 were almost five times more likely to go to the neonatal ICU. “Mothers who breastfeed and get the vaccine have found to have protective antibodies in the breast milk, helping protect the baby as well,” he added.
The Aga Khan University expert said the Covid-19 vaccines were safe and had been used by thousands of pregnant women without any problems, and they could be used in any trimester of pregnancy. “This is why all local and international committees now strongly recommend that pregnant women get the vaccine as soon as possible.”
Another expert Prof Javed Akram, the University of Health Sciences Lahore vice chancellor, said the pregnant women were encouraged to get themselves vaccinated during the first and third trimester of their pregnancy as it did not result in any safety issues for the mother and her unborn child.
“Women are encouraged to get themselves vaccinated with mRNA vaccines, that is Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine,” Prof Akram added.
However, a pharmaceutical scientist and subject lead in pharmacy at the University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom, Hamid Merchant, said the pregnant women should consult their physicians to seek advice on vaccination against Covid-19.
“Risks are either way - official guidelines are that the decision should be individualistic based on the risk-benefit analysis of every pregnant woman in consultation with their healthcare practitioner,” he said.
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