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Pregnant women in India now eligible for COVID vaccination

Pregnant women in India are now eligible to get vaccinated against Covid, with the union health ministry Friday giving the approval based on recommendations of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI).

The decision empowers pregnant women to make an informed choice on taking the Covid vaccination, the ministry said, adding these women can now register on CoWIN or walk into the nearest Covid vaccination center to get themselves inoculated.

The decision has been communicated to all the states and union territories to implement it under the ongoing National Covid Vaccination Program, it said in a statement.

India’s Covid vaccination program incorporates recommendations of the foremost experts in immunization, public health, disease control, and information technology.

Based on scientific and epidemiological evidence, the program prioritizes the country’s healthcare system by protecting the professionals, health, and frontline workers, operating it, and protecting the most vulnerable population groups, the ministry said.

Till now, all groups except pregnant women were eligible for Covid vaccination. Now, it is expanded to even pregnant women in the world’s largest immunization drive, the statement said.

Studies have shown that Covid infection during pregnancy may result in rapid deterioration of health of pregnant women, and they are at an increased risk of severe diseases. It might affect the fetus too, it said.

The matter has been examined by domain knowledge experts based on the evidence that indicates that pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness from Covid compared to non-pregnant women in case they get infected.

“Further, pregnant women with COVID-19 infection are at an increased risk for preterm birth and other adverse pregnancy outcomes, including higher chances of neonatal morbidity. Additionally, the experts have also highlighted pre-existing co-morbidities, advanced maternal age, and high body mass Index as factors for severe COVID-19 in pregnancy,” the statement said.

The NTAGI has recommended vaccination for pregnant women. The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) too has unanimously recommended it. Further, a national-level consultation on Covid vaccination for pregnant women was also convened by the health ministry to build consensus on Covid vaccination of pregnant women.

The consultation unanimously welcomed the recommendation of NTAGI to vaccinate pregnant women. The consultation included professional bodies like FOGSI, state governments, CSOs, NGOs, Development Partner agencies, technical experts, etc.

The ministry has accepted these recommendations and prepared an operational guideline for vaccination of pregnant women, a counseling kit for medical officers and frontline workers. Information education communication material for the general public to equip the states and union territories to vaccinate pregnant women.

Pregnant women who opt for vaccination can be inoculated with Covid vaccines available in the country during their pregnancy at the nearest government or private vaccination center after registration on CoWIN or by walk-in registration at the nearest center said.

The procedures and modalities like registration, generation of certificates after vaccination, etc., will remain the same as it is for any beneficiaries above 18 years of age under the Covid vaccination program, it said.

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