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Dr Adesh Sirjusingh

Rishard [email protected]

Pregnant women would not be allowed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine- at least not right now. Speaking during a Ministry of Health virtual press conference yesterday, Director of the Directorate of Women’s Health Dr Adesh Sirjusingh said there is currently a lack of data due to the exclusion of this category from the vaccine clinical trials. Pregnant women are among those who fall within the high-risk category for an adverse outcome from a COVID-19 infection. “We simply do not have enough data to make a clear recommendation on this vulnerable population. Our country would therefore follow the advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) when it comes to the emergency authorisation use in the population of Trinidad and Tobago and of course utilise our country’s own situation analysis which may differ from many others in the world,” he said.The current situation analysis of COVID-19 infections in pregnant women locally appears to be quite optimistic as Dr Sirjusingh explained there is yet to be any fatalities in this group. “Thirty-nine (pregnant) pregnant women in Trinidad have been infected by COVID-19 from our latest data and these were at different stages of pregnancy. Some of these women became very ill and required high-dependency unit care and intensive care unit care. However, all mothers and their delivered infants have been successfully managed to date. No newborn baby has been affected or has had to be hospitalised as a result,” he said. There have been no pregnant women with COVID-19 in Tobago to date. The country is expected to receive a first batch of close to 120,000 doses of the AstraZeneca (AZD1222) vaccine in a few weeks from the COVAX facility. These doses would suffice to inoculate up to 60,000 citizens of which priority would be given to frontline healthcare workers. Pregnant women and children under the age of 18 would not receive any jabs just yet. According to interim guidance coming from the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) at its extraordinary meeting on February 8, further studies are planned in pregnant women in the coming months, including a pregnancy substudy and a pregnancy registry. “As data from these studies become available, recommendations on vaccination will be updated accordingly. In the interim, pregnant women should receive AZD 1222 only if the benefit of vaccination to the pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks, such as if they are health workers at high risk of exposure or have comorbidities that place them in a high-risk group for severe COVID-19,” the interim guidance said. SAGE does not recommend the use of any COVID-19 vaccine in pregnant women as yet due to the lack of data. However, further studies are ongoing.