COVID vaccines safe for pregnant women, unvaxxed at higher risk: experts

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 20 2022 02:46 PM | Updated as of Jan 20 2022 03:33 PM

Mothers bring their babies to Vaccination for babies 5 years old and below at the evacuation site at the in the Batangas Provincial gym on January 21, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Mothers bring their babies to Vaccination for babies 5 years old and below at the evacuation site at the in the Batangas Provincial gym on January 21, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Unvaccinated pregnant women are more at risk than those with COVID-19 jabs, especially with the spread of the omicron variant, a group of doctors said Thursday.

COVID-19 vaccines have no adverse maternal or fetal effects, according to the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS).

"Ang buntis nasa vulnerable group...Mas malaki yung risk pag hindi sila nabakunahan. Very mild lang if ever ang side effects usually dun lang sa injection site pero yung kapalit pag di sila nabakunahan ay malubha. So magpabakuna po tayo at magpabooster," said Dr. Maria Julieta Germar, chair of POGS Clinical Consensus Working Group.

(Pregnant women are in the vulnerable group...The risk is greater if they're not vaccinated. Inoculation has very mild side effects, if any it's usually on the injection site, compared with being unvaccinated. So they should get vaccinated and boosted.)

Infants receive antibodies from their vaccinated mothers through breastfeeding which can result in up to 6 months protection, said Dr. Sybil Bravo, president of the Philippine Infectious Disease Society in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"Malaki po ang chance na 'di siya mahahawaan ng COVID sa first 3 to 6 months of his life," she said.

(There's a big chance the baby won't get infected with COVID-19 in the first 3 to 6 months of his life.)

"Wala pong masamang epekto ang vaccine paglaki niya po, although of course very very new po ito...In terms of abnormality, wala pong nakikitang epekto sa ngayon."

(The vaccine has no adverse effect on a child's growth, although of course very very new po ito...In terms of abnormality, no effects have so far been observed.)

Breastfeeding mothers are urged to stay at home except for availing essential services, Bravo added.

All available COVID-19 vaccines n the country, except for Gamaleya's Sputnik V, may be administered to pregnant women, according to Bravo.

This is because there isn't not enough data on the Russian vaccine's effect on pregnant women and it differs from other vaccines by having two different type of inactivated virus strains used in the first and second dose, Bravo added.

"Sa Russia itself, due to a lack of vaccine brands...ginagamit nila ang Gamaleya sa pregnant and lactating women. Sa global population di pa po ito well-studied," she said.

(In Russia, due to a lack of vaccine brands...Gamaleya's vaccine is used on pregnant and lactating women. It's not well-studied in the global population.)

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Miscarriage? Fertility?

Unvaccinated women have a higher risk of miscarriage if they contract COVID-19, Bravo said.

"'Pag di po tayo nabakunahan ang epekto po ng COVID ay napaka-severe...nakita po natin maraming nag-preterm labor at nanganak po ang ating mga buntis na hindi tama sa buwan at sila ay nagsilang ng maliliit na babies," she said.

(If pregnant women are not vaccinated, COVID's effect is very severe...We saw many went into pre-term labor and they gave birth to small infants.)

"Sa relationship ng COVID and fertility, may effect ang COVID sa fertility because of increased of sedative stress kaya di kaagad-kaagad nabubuntis," POGS president Dr. Marlyn Dee added.

(COVID has an effect on fertility because of increased of sedative stress, women can't get pregnant right away.)

Meantime, mothers infected with COVID-19 can still breastfeed their infants and do not need to be separated from them, said Dr. Cara Madrigal-Dy, president of Philippine Society of Maternal and Fetal Medicine.

Dy estimated that 8 out of her 10 recent patients have contracted the coronavirus.

Mothers would need to observe minimum health standards such as wearing of face mask and proper hand hygiene when breastfeeding, she added.

"Natural na pwedeng humina ang gatas kasi stress yan sa katawan niya, 'Wag matakot o wag maisip na delikado magbreastfeed dahil may COVID. Babalik din ang milk production after niya nagrecover sa sakit," she said.

(It's normal for milk production to weaken because of stress on the mother's body. Don't fear or think that it's dangerous to breastfeed because you have COVID. Mothers' milk production will return after she recovers from the illness.)

The Philippines has fully vaccinated 56 million individuals, while 59.2 million others have received an initial dose while 5.3 million booster shots have been administered as of Tuesday, according to Department of Health data.

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