The Mumbai civic body has organised a special drive to vaccinate pregnant women against COVID-19. Starting tomorrow they will be offered a Covid vaccine at one of 35 centres across the city, at which staff have been given special training for this purpose.
Making vaccines available for pregnant women is an issue that has been flagged by activists and members of the public, as well Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, who came on NDTV in May to ask: "Why should women be kept out of the ambit of vaccination because of a biological process?"
Until as recently as May, lactating women were eligible for the vaccine but pregnant women were not; the centre said this was due to a lack of safety and efficacy data since clinical trials for vaccines do not typically include pregnant women as participants.
#FYI | “Why should any woman be kept out of the ambit of vaccination because of a biological process? If a woman chooses to get a vaccine, how can the state stop her from going for it?”: Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19), Rajya Sabha MP, on vaccinations for pregnant women pic.twitter.com/7IvgtVjAuw— NDTV (@ndtv) May 27, 2021
Late June, however, the Union Health Ministry said pregnant women "can and should" be vaccinated, signalling a policy change that followed widespread concern over the exposure of expectant mothers (and their children) to the deadly virus, and their right to be vaccinated.
"The Health Ministry has given guidelines that the vaccine can be given to pregnant women. Vaccination is useful for them and should be given," Dr Balram Bhargava, Director-General of the Indian Council for Medical Research, said.
On Monday Kerala Health Minister Veena George announced a similar programme for her state. Ms George told news agency ANI special vaccination camps would be organised at district levels.
Vaccination for pregnant women was one of the topics discussed by the NTAGI, or National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, in May.
"Considering current situation of pandemic, NTAGI-STSC recommends pregnant women should not be excluded from vaccination because exposure probability is very high and therefore the benefit far outweighs the risk," the committee said in the minutes of its May 28 meeting.
Doubts were raised about possible risks to the mother and/or child - including that of clotting (or thrombosis) with the Covishield jab, but the committee decided "benefit far outweighs the risk".
"... before vaccination, pregnant women should be fully informed that long-term adverse reactions and safety of vaccine for fetus and child (has) not yet (been) established," the NTAGI added.
With input from ANI