Vaccine expert 'upset' pregnant Canterbury mum cautioned about Pfizer jab

Rebecca Moore
Source: 1 NEWS

A vaccine expert is urging pregnant women to get the Covid-19 vaccination, despite caution from a Canterbury woman's midwife.

A woman, who did not want to be named, told 1News she was ready to get her jab but is now unsure after her midwife warned her about there not being any long-term testing on how it may impact her unborn baby.

However, Malaghan Institute's Professor Graham Le Gros said he was upset such advice was given out to the concerned woman, who's a mother.

"On both immunology theory grounds and on just great gobs of empirical data based on the 220 million Pfizer vaccine doses that have been given to people all round the world, this vaccine causes no harm to the fetus," he told 1News.

"It really upsets me the midwife should say that because the midwife should know that the human body and immune system is exquisitely evolved to protect the fetus with both barrier and immunological mechanisms.

"It is the actual virus infection that is likely to affect the health of the fetus."

Professor Graham Le Gros said the vaccine is constantly monitored globally to ensure it's safe for the public to use.

The Ministry of Health's website also states that data from the large number of pregnant people already vaccinated globally shows that there are no additional safety concerns with giving Covid-19 vaccines.

It added that vaccinating during pregnancy may also help protect the baby, with evidence showing babies can get antibodies to the virus through cord blood and breast milk. 

"In fact the best thing the mother can do is get vaccinated and pass on to her baby all her antibodies that will protect the baby from being infected," Le Gros said.

"This is why humans have managed to survive these millions of years as a species because we have a very clever way to pass on the protection from mum to baby for the first years of its life."

So how does the vaccine work? Is it able to impact DNA?

"The Pfizer vaccine is designed to stimulate the immune system of the arm and go no further," Le Gros said.

As of Monday, more than 5.02 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine has been administered in New Zealand.

But the Ministry of Health told 1News it does not keep track of how many pregnant women in New Zealand have received the vaccine for privacy reasons.

The ministry's group manager for clinical quality and safety, Covid-19 vaccine and immunisation programme Juliet Rumball-Smith said all pregnant women, no matter how far along they are, are encouraged to get the Pfizer vaccine as part of Group 3 as they can become very sick with the coronavirus.

"Not only is the Covid-19 vaccine one of the more well-studied medicines of our time, it is certainly the most publicly scrutinised medicine in recent memory," she told 1News.

"Data from millions of pregnant people who have already been vaccinated globally, indicates that there are no additional safety concerns with administering Covid-19 vaccines at any stage of pregnancy.

"Research shows that if you're not vaccinated and you are pregnant and catch Covid-19, you are more likely to be admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit."

Rumball-Smith reiterated that vaccinating against the coronavirus during pregnancy may also be helpful for the baby.

"There is evidence of antibody transfer in cord blood and breast milk, which may offer protection to infants through passive immunity," she said.

"We encourage any pregnant person to discuss any questions or concerns around the Covid-19 vaccine with their healthcare professional."

More information about the vaccine and pregnancy and breastfeeding can be found at the Ministry of Health's website  and the Immunisation Advisory Centre website .

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