Australian health authorities are now recommending that women at any stage of pregnancy are routinely offered the Pfizer vaccine to protect against COVID-19.
On Wednesday, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) said new data has confirmed there are no safety concerns for pregnant women who receive the Pfizer mRNA vaccine.
The decision has been made because “the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 is significantly higher for pregnant women and their unborn baby”, according to a joint statement from RANZCOG and ATAGI.
Previous advice had been that pregnant women who were at high risk of catching COVID-19, or had significant underlying medical conditions, should be offered the vaccine.
According to RANZCOG and ATAGI, global surveillance data from large numbers of pregnant women have not identified any significant safety concerns with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines given at any stage of pregnancy. The new advice also suggests that getting vaccinated may help breastfeeding mothers pass on immunity from COVID-19 to their baby.
The new advice also says women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to delay their vaccination, or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination.
“There is no evidence that women who become pregnant after receiving the vaccine are at increased risk of [fetal abnormalities], miscarriage or maternal illness,” RANZCOG said.
RANZCOG said there was no evidence COVID-19 increased the risk of miscarriage or teratogenicity, but it if a pregnant woman has the virus, there may be an increased risk of a premature birth in the third trimester.
Pregnant women, and those who are trying to become pregnant, are encouraged to discuss the timing of their vaccination with their GP or health professional.
The new advice for pregnant women comes after Western Australia announced it will open its COVID-19 vaccination rollout to all people over the age of 30, and as the Northern Territory has opened its vaccinations to everyone over 16.
RANZCOG also emphasised the importance of inclusion of pregnant and breastfeeding women in clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines to develop evidence-based advice regarding safety and efficacy.