Can you take the Covid-19 vaccine if you’re breastfeeding? Find out here.
India has ramped up its Covid-19 vaccination drive. Adults between the ages of 18 to 45 years have been eligible to get the vaccine since May 1st, 2021. If you’re in this age group and currently breastfeeding your baby, you’re probably wondering whether you can take the vaccine too.
Read on to find out the latest developments regarding the Covid vaccine for breastfeeding moms in India.
Should Breastfeeding Moms get the Covid Vaccine?
As per current guidelines in India, lactating women who are breastfeeding infants, can take the Covid-19 vaccine. This includes women who are feeding their children pumped breast milk.
What has Changed?
Until May 2021, lactating women were not cleared to take the Covid-19 vaccine. In early May, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) submitted a new recommendation to the Government that all lactating women should be allowed to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
As of May 20, the Government has authorised this recommendation. Lactating women are officially eligible to take the vaccine in India.
Is the Vaccine Safe?
Both the vaccines available in India i.e. AstraZeneca's Covishield®, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin®, manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited, have undergone clinical trials in 2 phases. They have received Emergency Use Authorization, because they are deemed safe for injection. The Sputnik vaccine manufactured in Russia has also been approved for use in India. All the vaccines provide good protection against the Covid-19 disease - either by preventing infection or preventing progression into a severe state of the disease.
Initially, lactating women were not included in the clinical trials for the 2 vaccines, thus possible effects of the vaccines on breastfeeding women and their babies were not known - including the safety of the vaccines for lactating women, the effects of the vaccine on the breastfed infant, and on the mother’s milk production.
However, new data has shown that the vaccines are unlikely to have a harmful effect on mother or infant. As Dr NK Arora, Chairman of the NTAGI, explains to India Today, the vaccine does not contain a live virus and will not harm the breastfed baby. He adds that the WHO also recommends that lactating women should be vaccinated.
In countries like the UK and the US, the Covid-19 vaccine is already being taken by breastfeeding mothers, as it does not have a negative effect on breastfed infants. Bringing the pandemic to an end is understood to depend on the maximum number of people getting vaccinated. Allowing lactating women to take the vaccine will help protect them, their infants, and those around them, from infection.
Dr Arora also adds that in several cases, when mothers are vaccinated against various diseases, their babies also receive antibodies through the breast milk. However, it is not yet known whether this is also true for the Covid vaccines available in India.
What Should I Do Now?
Now that the guidelines have been updated to allow the Covid vaccine for breastfeeding moms in India, your best course of action is to take the vaccine as soon as possible. You may consult with your doctor before you register yourself for the vaccine, to discuss your particular case or any of your concerns.
You will be able to register yourself for vaccination on the CoWIN platform, and book your slot at the nearest available health centre. You may have a choice between Covishield, Covaxin, or the new Sputnik vaccine, depending on availability. You can take your 1st dose immediately, and your 2nd dose after some weeks, depending on the vaccine.
Upon taking the 1st or 2nd dose, you may experience side effects such as mild headache, mild fever, pain or swelling at the injection site, or irritability. These side effects should disappear in a few days. Do contact your doctor if side-effects persist beyond a few days, are very severe or unusual.
Remember, after your 1st or even 2nd dose, there are chances of infection with the Covid-19 virus, even though severe illness is unlikely. To protect yourself, your baby, and those around you, you must continue to practice all precautionary measures - including wearing masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.
Besides getting yourself vaccinated at the earliest, do encourage your partner, parents or anyone living at home with you to do so too. This will ensure that your entire family and household is safe.
In a situation like the Covid-19 pandemic, changes are ongoing and new developments and guidelines are being announced all the time - so it goes for the Covid vaccine for breastfeeding moms in India. Now that the guidelines have been changed, go ahead and get the vaccine as soon as you can, and help end the pandemic in India.