Can breastfeeding women take the covid-19 vaccine?
The World Health Organization confirmed the Covid-19 outbreak as a pandemic in March 2020. To develop antibodies against and fight the virus, many countries, including India, have developed vaccines. These vaccines have been accepted by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) and the World Health Organisation for human clinical trials in different phases; the vaccines that passed the trials are now used to vaccinate the general public.
After the Central Government announced the vaccination for people above 18, many questions were raised about who can get the vaccine and who can not, especially for vaccination of pregnant and lactating women. There have been many questions about women's health, like whether menstruating women can get the vaccine? Can pregnant women get vaccinated? Can breastfeeding women get the vaccine? Should they continue breastfeeding after getting vaccinated? Does the vaccine have any negative effect on the overall health of mother and child? In this article, we try to put an end to the questions regarding breastfeeding and Covid-19 vaccination.
The vaccines authorized for the public have not been tested on women who are lactating. In May 2021, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) proposed that women who breastfeed should get the vaccine.
After this recommendation, which was supported by the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) and the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) stating that the benefits of getting vaccinated overbalance the risks that might be associated with it, the Government allowed vaccination for breastfeeding women.
Questions were raised if women should continue breastfeeding after getting vaccinated. V. K. Paul, a Niti Aayog (health) member, stated that it is perfectly safe for women to continue breastfeeding after getting the vaccine. A report suggested that women wait for at least two days before starting breastfeeding again after getting vaccinated.
Still, according to Niti Aayog, there is no need to stop breastfeeding after vaccination, even for a short
period. Dr Samiran Panda, Head of Division of Epidemiology and Communicable Disease, Indian Council
for Medical Research (ICMR), said that all breastfeeding mothers should get vaccinated against the covid-
She also stated that the antibodies developed because of the vaccine get passively transferred to the newborn during breastfeeding, ensuring that the vaccine is completely safe for children.
Some other common questions related to breastfeeding and Covid-19 vaccination
- If a breastfeeding woman has already had Covid-19, should she still get vaccinated?
The answer to this is - YES! Even if you have been infected in the past, you should get vaccinated. A study reveals that lactating women have a higher antibody response than after a normal Covid- 19 infection.
- Do vaccines affect the milk supply?
No such impact of vaccines is found on milk supply.
- Will a baby experience the symptoms after being breastfed by a vaccinated mother?
There is no such finding that shows the after-vaccine symptoms impacting a child's health if a vaccinated mother is breastfeeding them with the side effects.
- Does a breastfeeding woman have to discard her breast milk for a period following the vaccination?
There is no need to discard breast milk as the vaccine does not negatively impact it. As suggested by the Niti Aayog (health), a woman can breastfeed after vaccination. Many health experts have said that the antibodies developed in mothers get passed onto the children through the milk.
WHO guidelines for vaccination of breastfeeding and pregnant women.
The World Health Organisation has issued guidelines regarding vaccination of pregnant and lactating women to ensure that this demographic too get the benefits of vaccination.
For pregnant women:
The WHO also says that there is no need to:
- As per the guidelines provided by WHO, a pregnant woman should be informed about:
- Risk of Covid-19 infection in pregnant women.
- Benefits of getting a vaccination in the regional epidemiological context.
- Current limits in the safety data regarding pregnant women.
For breastfeeding women:
- Conduct pregnancy tests before vaccination.
- Postponing or terminating a pregnancy because of the vaccine.
Things to do before getting vaccinated
- The efficacy of the vaccine is the same in lactating women as in other adults.
- WHO recommends that all lactating women get vaccinated as it does not negatively affect the breastfeeding mother and child.
What are the side/after-effects of vaccination?
- Eat well and drink enough water before vaccination.
- Get a proper 8 hours of sleep the night before.
- Consult a doctor if you are allergic to medications or suffer from pre-existing medical conditions
- such as hypertension, renal illness, diabetes etc.
After getting vaccinated, a person is likely to experience the following side effects:
- Injection site pain and swelling
- Headache and dizziness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tremor and sweating
These symptoms are common and usually not serious. A little rest will do you good. But if you experience severe fever, you may consult a doctor to look into the matter.
What is the process for vaccination?
The process for vaccination for breastfeeding women is the same as the process for everyone above the age of 18. All you have to do is follow the mentioned process:
- Download the CoWin or Aarogya Setu app. You can also visit the CoWin website.
- Enter all the required information like mobile number, Aadhar card number, or any other government identification number to get yourself registered. You can register four people from a common phone number.
- After registration, the platform will show you all the vaccination centres available near you and the name of available vaccine(s).
- From there, you can select the centre and time slot of your choice.
Get the vaccination certificate from the Cowin website after getting vaccinated.
If you still have any doubts or medical conditions that make you reluctant to get vaccinated, consult a doctor and clear all your doubts regarding vaccination. It is important to have proper knowledge and guidance about it. Do not believe in misleading information circulated on the internet.
Remember, it is necessary to get vaccinated to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting infected by the virus.
For any consultation regarding breastfeeding and Covid-19 vaccination, you can talk with doctors in Remedy Hospital. You can book appointments for vaccination, too!