Protection for mothers and babies: vaccines and pregnancy

3 Nov 2022
vaccines and pregnancy

Washington DC, 3 November, 2022 (PAHO) – Pregnancy is a sensitive time for both mothers and their environment. It is natural to raise questions about a variety of issues, including vaccination. Providing clear and accurate information is essential to generate confidence and thus achieve the desired immunization in both mothers and babies.

When asked about this, the regional advisor on Maternal Health of the Latin American Center for Perinatology - Women's and Reproductive Health (CLAP/WR), Bremen De Mucio, said that "Vaccines have proven to be one of the most effective interventions in public health. When it comes to immunizations in pregnancy, the peculiarity is that two people are protected with only one vaccine".

This is because the vaccine not only protects the mother but also the baby. De Mucio delved into the subject by referring to what happened recently with the COVID 19 vaccine and commented that vaccines during pregnancy not only contributed to reduce maternal mortality and severe conditions among pregnant women, but also contributed to reduce preterm pregnancies linked to COVID 19. "This is not new, we had already seen the double protective effects in the case of the AH1N1 Influenza pandemic. In addition, other vaccines given to mothers have generated sufficient immunity so that children do not die in early stages of their lives, when they have not yet generated the necessary immunity", he pointed out.

It should be recalled that, in particular, the COVID 19 vaccine generated doubts as to whether or not it should be administered to pregnant women because there were not enough trials that are usually required. However, it soon became clear that pregnant women are a population at risk and it was essential to act quickly to prevent maternal and infant morbidity and mortality from continuing to rise.

Evidence has shown that vaccination against COVID 19 before and during pregnancy is safe and effective, and seems to indicate that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks.

In this regard, the international advisor on Maternal Health of CLAP/WR, Claudio Sosa, emphasized that medical teams should commit and dedicate time to informing and answering any doubts that may arise in the mother and her environment, emphasizing the evidence and recognizing what they do not yet have data on. Sosa recalled that "The recommendation of vaccination by an obstetrician-gynecologist or other health provider is one of the strongest influences for acceptance by the users".

Another aspect to take into account when talking about vaccines in pregnant women is the timing of their administration. In this regard, the healthcare team must provide the necessary follow-up to ensure that the woman has the necessary immunization at each stage of pregnancy.

The director of CLAP/WR, Suzanne Serruya, emphasized that vaccines are highly recommended at all stages: prior to pregnancy, because they ensure the woman's protection; during pregnancy, for her protection and that of the baby; and afterwards, because they do not interfere with breastfeeding.

In addition, it is important to remember that not only the mother should be immunized but also her environment.

CLAP/wR's regional advisor on Neonatal Health, Pablo Durán, recalled the importance of administering BCG and hepatitis B vaccines to newborns early after pregnancy.

In the current context, where we are still feeling the impact that the pandemic had on the disruption of services it is particularly important to keep this in mind and promote vaccination."

In conclusion, vaccines during pregnancy are highly beneficial for both mothers and babies, and health teams have a great responsibility in terms of listening, accompanying and guiding to promote vaccination and ensure the protection of both. In this regard, Serruya mentioned that "The medical team has a very important role to play. There is a bond of trust between the patient and the health personnel that implies an enormous responsibility and is also an opportunity" ... "We must be empathetic, listen and give clear answers. Only in this way will we be able to advance in quality care and, consequently, get closer to the goals we set ourselves to safeguard the health of women and their children," she concluded.