One of the major challenges with vaccinating pregnant women against coronavirus – or indeed providing any other novel medical treatment – is that it is difficult to carry out effective trials.
Health authorities the world over have been reluctant to do so in many cases due in part to concerns about what could happen to the unborn child, with a consequence being that pregnant women have often not yet received the jab.
Here’s what you need to know.
Can pregnant women get vaccinated for Covid in Austria?
In the first few months of the vaccine rollout in Austria, authorities held off on recommending the jab for pregnant women.
The response in some states has been to offer vaccination to those around pregnant women, in order to minimise their possible exposure.
However, on Wednesday, April 28th, Austrian authorities gave the green light to vaccinations for pregnant women.
Austria’s National Vaccination Committee acknowledged that although there was only limited trials of vaccines in pregnant women, so far these had not indicated any abnormalities.
Are pregnant women prioritised for vaccines?
Pregnant women are now in the third priority group.
In some states – including Vienna and Styria – close household contacts also fall into priority category three “because of the potentially serious course of the disease in pregnant women”.
Vienna has been particularly proactive, opening up 5,000 appointments for women to get vaccinated from May 20th onwards.
Has Austria carried out trials on vaccines in pregnant women?
No. While Austria has not yet carried out trials on vaccines in pregnant women, initial data from the US suggests that vaccines appear to be effective.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 94,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated against Covid-19, mainly with the mRNA vaccines.
There have been no specific safety concerns, US officials report.
Austria has referred to this data to indicate the safety of vaccinating pregnant women.
The United Kingdom, for instance, has started vaccinations of pregnant women on the basis of this US data.
Is vaccinating pregnant women safe?
In all of the trials carried out so far the vaccine has been shown to be safe for pregnant women.
Authorities, such as those in Germany, have pointed out that the main question is not only whether the vaccine is safe, but how it compares to the impact that contracting Covid can have on pregnant women.
The German state of Saxony’s Vaccine Commission recommended vaccinations for pregnant women with study results from abroad and from within Germany, pointing out that a severe course of Covid-19 increases with pregnancy.
Compared to non-pregnant women, pregnant women infected with the virus require intensive medical care about six times more often and ventilation more than 23 times as often, they said.
Which types of vaccines can pregnant women get?
Austrian authorities have indicated they prefer using mRNA vaccines – i.e. Moderna and Pfizer/BioNtech – for pregnant women.
The vaccination committee particularly emphasises the positive experience with mRNA vaccines.
According to the authorities “Without exception, they did not reveal any abnormalities. In particular, data on mRNA vaccines have meanwhile been published, which is why mRNA vaccines are preferred when vaccinating pregnant women are.”