Expert panel recommends COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant, breastfeeding women

Monday, 2 August 2021

The National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) has recommended the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Dr Be-nazir Ahmed, a member of the expert panel, said on Monday they came up with the recommendation on Jul 31 following a government request to know whether such women can be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

When Bangladesh rolled out its immunisation drive in February, the health ministry decided to keep pregnant women off the list of recipients as the vaccines had not been tested on the demographic in a clinical setting.

As many as 3.5 million women become pregnant across Bangladesh each year. These women aren’t receiving the vaccine for now, according to the health ministry.

Some countries around the world have started immunising pregnant women against COVID-19, and, as of now, no adverse effects have been reported.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in the UK and Australia’s Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation have suggested that pregnant women should receive the COVID-19 vaccine as it reduces risks.

Also, the World Health Organization said pregnant women should receive the COVID-19 vaccine as the benefits surpass the adverse effects.

Four Supreme Court lawyers served a legal notice on the health secretary, principal secretary, DGHS director and IEDCR director asking them to arrange for the immunisation of pregnant women.

As there was no response, a writ petition was filed on Jul 31 to the High Court. The petitioners include a pregnant woman, who is a lawyer. The petition sought an order prioritising pregnant woman among COVID vaccine recipients.

But the court kept the matter for the authorities to decide. Earlier on Monday, the High Court ordered the government to decide in 72 hours whether pregnant women would be allowed to receive the COVID-19 vaccine following a writ petition.

It ordered the attorney general to contact the relevant ministries and government offices.