Green light for pregnant and breastfeeding women to get J&J vaccine

29 April 2021 - 21:21
By TimesLIVE
A health worker receives her Covid-19 vaccine. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times A health worker receives her Covid-19 vaccine. File photo.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women with comorbidities or at high risk of exposure to Covid-19 have been given the green light to receive the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) jab under the Sisonke vaccination programme and beyond in SA.

“Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe Covid-19 compared with women of childbearing age who are not pregnant, and Covid-19 has been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth,” the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) said in a statement on Thursday.

The regulator announced that pregnant and breastfeeding women in SA “may be vaccinated” with the J&J jab “in consultation with their healthcare provider.

“Vaccination data should be collected as part of the ongoing Sisonke study and by national pregnancy exposure registries once the vaccine is being rolled out.”

TimesLIVE reported on Wednesday that the vaccination of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers with the jab had been temporarily halted pending investigations into potential side-effects. Health minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed this while briefing parliament’s portfolio on health on developments regarding the J&J clinical trials and vaccine procurement for the country.

“We have received a warning that we should not extend the J&J vaccine to pregnant women and women who are lactating [breastfeeding]. This is a temporary measure until we have concrete information from scientists to say what we need to look out for in this case,” he said.

Sahpra said on Thursday: “It is not yet clear whether the vaccine is excreted in breast milk. Women who are breastfeeding should be counselled on the absence of information in this regard and a benefit-risk assessment should be made by the enrolling clinician.

“The developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the mother’s clinical need for immunisation against Covid-19. It must be noted that the WHO does not recommend discontinuing breastfeeding after vaccination.”

The Sisonke Covid-19 vaccine study, under which health workers in SA are being given the vaccine, resumed this week after being briefly halted in response to reports of recipients developing rare blood clots abroad.