COVID-19 vaccines safe while pregnant, breastfeeding or immunosuppressed: NACI

Click to play video: 'Doctors encourage pregnant people to get COVID-19 vaccine'
Doctors encourage pregnant people to get COVID-19 vaccine
WATCH: Doctors encourage pregnant people to get COVID-19 vaccine – May 7, 2021

COVID-19 vaccines are safe for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or immunosuppressed, according to new guidance from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

“International real-world data” showed the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in these populations, the advisory committee said Friday. The new data led them to offer the same recommendations it has for the general adult populations to these specific groups.

Previously, NACI recommended that these groups be offered COVID-19 vaccines in “some circumstances, and on a case-by-case basis,” if the benefits outweighed the risks.

Canada has authorized four vaccines so far — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, though the latter has not been distributed in the country at this point.

Read more: Why pregnant women are flooding Canadian ICUs

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Early clinical trials of approved COVID-19 vaccines in Canada did not include these populations or they were represented in a fairly small number of participants, NACI said. The committee has since reviewed new, more diverse safety data, which they say shows the vaccines are safe to use in these circumstances.

The committee adds that it prefers that those who are immunosuppressed, have an autoimmune condition, are pregnant or are breastfeeding, still complete a two-dose vaccine regimen with an mRNA vaccine, but say another vaccine “should be offered… if they’re not able to receive an mRNA vaccine.”

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines are mRNA shots, while AstraZeneca is a viral vector vaccine. Johnson & Johnson is also a viral vector vaccine.

Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are associated with very rare cases of blood clotting conditions, like Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT).

Click to play video: 'Doctors warn pregnant women at higher-risk of hospitalization with COVID-19 variants'
Doctors warn pregnant women at higher-risk of hospitalization with COVID-19 variants

In a statement, NACI said, “mRNA vaccines are preferred for use during pregnancy, due to recently published data from a study in the United States indicating the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are safe in pregnant women.”

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“In addition, treating Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT) during pregnancy, should it occur following the administration of a viral vector vaccine, can be complex.”

Health Canada had already approved the vaccine for pregnant women and doctors have generally encouraged them to get the shot when they can.

Many provinces have prioritized pregnant people for vaccines in the last few months.

–With files from the Canadian Press

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