Have Israeli health authorities made the right decision in pushing for pregnant women to get vaccinated against the coronavirus? Experts believe so.
A day after the World Health Organization issued a recommendation not to administer the Moderna vaccine to pregnant women, Yariv Yogev, director of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Sourasky Medical Center’s Ichilov Hospital, and Yoav Yinon, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, told The Jerusalem Post that there is no scientific reason to believe that the inoculation might be dangerous to the fetus or the mother. The risk of contracting the virus decisively outweighs other considerations.
“Let’s look at some facts: women who are pregnant are more likely to develop a severe form of the disease than their peers who are not,” Yogev said. “The WHO is just one of the many organizations that issue recommendations, and not among the most important ones.”
“The WHO chose a conservative approach. Since pregnant women were not included in the vaccine studies, they said that they should not be vaccinated,” Yinon pointed out.
Both researchers highlighted that even the WHO still recommended that women at high risk of contracting COVID should get inoculated.
“This means that they still believe the vaccine is safe,” Yinon noted.
He emphasized that even before the new coronavirus variants, pregnancy had already been identified as a risk factor by three studies conducted in the US and Europe. While it is too early to see how the variants are influencing the situation, there are reasons to believe that they have aggravated it.
“We currently have 12 pregnant women in critical condition,” he pointed out.
The researchers also stressed that in light of its mechanism, there is no biological reason to believe that the vaccine might have a negative impact on the fetus.
“The vaccine is based on messenger RNA, and the human body cannot translate messenger RNA into DNA,” Yogev explained. “The material remains in our body for a period that goes from a few hours to a few days, and the body reacts by producing the antibodies against the virus. However, the immunization cannot cross the placenta and cannot cause any DNA mutation, miscarriage or any other problems.”
“All over the world, countries that at the beginning did not vaccinate pregnant women are changing their policies: the UK, the US, Canada.... In this sense Israel is leading the way, and my impression is that soon we will have a clear-cut recommendation for all pregnant women to get vaccinated,” Yinon said.
He added that at Sheba they are already conducting a study on more than 340 women who got vaccinated. “We are following them, and I think that in a few months we will have very clear data.”
While both experts said that they consider the vaccine safe at any stage of the pregnancy, they suggested waiting for the second trimester to be inoculated.
“During the first trimester, spontaneous miscarriages are common, and we would not want people to think that they are correlated to the vaccine. However, I would personally recommend women who are at high risk to get vaccinated even in the first trimester,” Yogev said.