Earlier this month the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its guideline that pregnant women should avoid getting COVID-19 vaccine shots. But the UN agency reversed its recommendation and said on Friday, January 29, that vaccines can be taken by women during pregnancy.
The Geneva-based agency, which has been monitoring the Coronavirus pandemic from the initial months, said: "While pregnancy puts women at higher risk of severe COVID-19, very little data are available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy."
"Nevertheless, based on what we know about this kind of vaccine, we don't have any specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women," it added.
According to the WHO, those pregnant women at high risk of exposure to novel Coronavirus or who have comorbidities that add to their risk of developing the severe disease may be vaccinated after consulting their health care provider.
Reversal of Previous Guidance
Earlier this week, WHO recommended against the use of vaccines during pregnancy. At that time, the agency recommended not to use Moderna's mRNA-1273 in pregnancy. The recommendation echoed WHO's guidelines for BNT162b2 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. In early January, the agency wrote: "WHO recommends not to use BNT162b2 in pregnancy, unless the benefit of vaccinating a pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks, such as in health workers at high risk of exposure and pregnant women with comorbidities placing them in a high-risk group for severe COVID-19."
Neither Pfizer nor Moderna enrolled pregnant women in their vaccine trials. Moderna said that there is a plan to establish a registry to study pregnancy outcomes in mothers and infants, while Pfizer expressed its intention to start a maternal vaccine study in the future.
The Centers for Disease Control in the US also said this week that pregnant women should be permitted to receive COVID-19 vaccine. It also said that they are at increased risk of severe disease or death from Coronavirus caused disease. "People who are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may choose to be vaccinated," the agency stated.
However, while WHO advised not use of the mRNA-based vaccines on pregnant women at a time when the agency did not have much data, health ministries from several countries recommended it. For example, in Israel, the health ministry has advised pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The ministry said that women in their second or third trimesters should be vaccinated. But women in their first trimester must wait unless there were other risk factors, added the ministry.