Last month, guidelines from the government’s expert advisory panel on COVID vaccinations were updated to recommend the Pfizer vaccine be offered to pregnant persons.
Yet many pregnant women under 40 remain ineligible for the Pfizer vaccine because they are not considered a priority group by the federal government.
The joint statement released by Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) in June stated that persons at any stage of their pregnancy were eligible for the Pfizer “…because the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 is significantly higher for pregnant women and their unborn baby.”
While some pregnant women are getting access to the vaccine by meeting other eligibility criteria, (ie. if they have an underlying medical condition) most under the age of 40 have been put on a waiting list without any indication of how long they will wait until their first dose.
The President of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Karen Price believes consistent messages from governments across Australia should be relayed.
“The RACGP is calling on the federal, state, and territory governments to make it crystal clear who currently has access to which vaccine and where they can get them,” she said in a statement.
“Patients across Australia are suffering from ‘information overload’ and confused about their eligibility status and what next steps they should take. The goalposts seem to be shifting every other day and I am concerned that some patients will find it all too difficult and delay or avoid getting vaccinated altogether.”
Currently, pregnant women are encouraged to discuss their vaccination options with a health professional, despite not being within a priority group.
“Many pregnant women may be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination for other reasons, for example, occupation,” a spokesperson from the Department of Health said.
“Practices have been asked to use strategies to minimise vaccine wastage such as maintaining a waiting list of eligible patients or vaccinate patients or staff who are eligible and present in the practice”.
The spokesperson added that people going through pregnancy can get vaccinated at GP practices or state-run vaccine clinics where there is enough Pfizer available.
A recent U.S study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that of the 35,000 pregnant women who were vaccinated, most did not report any safety concerns.
Consensus remains undetermined as to the optimal time to have a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy. Pregnant individuals are encouraged to discuss the timing of vaccination with their GP or health professional.
Pfizer continues to be the preferred vaccine among people in the population and those who are pregnant, since limited data is available on the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine during pregnancy.