Lactating mothers and pregnant women getting the Covid vaccination would largely help to prevent children from the virus infection as most of the positive symptoms reported among infected children in the state are mild ones, said associate professor, Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS), department of Paediatrics, RK Rupabati Devi.
Dr Rupabati was speaking in an exclusive interview to the Imphal Free Press on how essential it is for lactating and pregnant women to be vaccinated in order to prevent children from getting infected in the event of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The JNIMS professor, who was also former secretary of Pediatrics Association of Manipur (PAM), told the IFP that an increasing number of pregnant and postpartum women affected by COVID-19 is noted in the second wave compared to the first wave.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), these groups which had a symptomatic case of 14.2 per cent in the first wave increased to 28.7 per cent in the second wave. The fatality rate, which was 0.7 per cent in the first wave, rose to 5.7 per cent in the second wave.
Considering this serious situation amongst this section, ICMR in June recommended vaccination to these groups, Dr Rupabati said. Getting vaccination by lactating and pregnant women would also help to reduce the possibility of spreading COVID-19 to their children, she added.
“Hence, to keep our children safe from the third wave where many experts have expressed the concern that it might affect the minor the most, it is essential to get pregnant and lactating mothers vaccinated as early as possible.
“Besides, five to seven per cent of the total population of women in India is pregnant women. In view of this, to vaccinate them is important since nobody is safe from this virus until everyone is safe,” Dr Rupabati stated.
Rupabati further said that the state government is making all possible efforts to scale up vaccination of every eligible section of society. It is yet to ascertain the exact figures of vaccine beneficiaries among the lactating and pregnant women in the state, she said.
However, many such women have started realising the need to get themselves inoculated for their safety and that of their wards, she added.
There are no reports of experiencing adverse effects on getting inoculated with Covid vaccine among lactating and pregnant women so far, except some mild reactions such as fever, flu, body ache, etc. Such mild side effects are common when getting vaccinated with any type of vaccines. Hence, there is no need to worry when getting such effects, Dr Rupabati said.
Also, informing about the timing of vaccination among pregnant women, she said that they can be vaccinated at any period of pregnancy or even after a few days of child birth or delivery of baby, if they do not have any kind of ailment such as hypertension, diabetes, blood pressure and so on. For those who have such comorbid conditions, vaccination should be done after three months of child birth.
Some experts even suggest that it is best to vaccinate during the last trimester of pregnancy because the antibody can reach the foetus, she added.
Regarding breastfeeding mothers, Dr Rupabati said there is no restriction on feeding babies. They can safely feed their babies even before or right after vaccination, she said, adding some experts are of the view that anti-bodies of COVID-19 vaccine can pass through breast milk which indirectly provides some level of protection to children from getting the virus infection. However, a proper study on it is yet to be done, she added.
Dr Rupabati also said that vaccines produced in the country such as Covishield vaccine, Covaxin vaccine, Sputnik vaccine and Moderna vaccine were recommended to both lactating and pregnant women.
When asked about other means of keeping children safe from the virus infection, the JNIMS professor said as children below five years are not permissible to wear masks as their lungs capacity is very low. In the interest of them, their near and dear ones should be vaccinated without delay. Maintain strict health hygiene by family members, don't expose them to crowds and keep them in an airy room, she advised.
Inoculating children with the flu vaccine may also help to fight secondary infection like haemophilus influenza had they been infected by COVID-19.
To prevent any kind of eventuality, parents should get their children vaccinated with the flu vaccine, she recommended while mentioning that 8.5 per cent of the total COVID-19 cases in the country is found to be children.
Vaccination of lactating and pregnant women is not only recommended by the ICMR, but it is also supported by various other related bodies. Some of them are the World Health Organisation, the National Experts Group on Vaccine Administering for COVID-19, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Federation of Obstetrics Gynaecology Society among others.
The professor said that to keep mothers and children free from COVID-19, getting both doses of COVID-19 vaccine could be one of the most effective mechanisms. Every mother and pregnant woman should come forward for vaccination, she suggested during the interview. Pointing out that vaccines are not made from live viruses, she stressed that there is no need to worry or fear vaccination.
Of the over 27 lakh population of the state, 10,66,127 people have been vaccinated till date (July 20, 2021), according to official sources. The state would be safe from the pandemic if around 20 lakh people are vaccinated. Considering this, each and every eligible person should have the willingness to get themselves inoculated with Covid vaccine, Dr Rupabati maintained.
Despite the recommendation for vaccination among lactating and pregnant women, many of them are still not ready for it on various grounds.
When this Imphal Free Press reporter interacted with a few pregnant women, they expressed the fear that their child in the womb may directly or indirectly suffer adverse effects of the vaccine. Such a notion prevents them from getting vaccinated with Covid vaccine.
Some pregnant and lactating women are reluctant to expose themselves at vaccination sites as most of such sites are always crowded.
According to information received from the health department, till July 5, there were around 7,901 children below 15 years who tested positive for COVID-19 in the state.
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