Covid Scotland: Vaccines safe in pregnancy, large study confirms

A study has suggested Covid vaccines are safe to use in pregnancy, with pregnant women experiencing lower rates of health events post vaccination than similarly aged, non-pregnant vaccinated people.

The Canadian study published in The Lancet journal found 7.3 per cent of pregnant women experienced health events requiring time off work or school or needing medical attention, such as headaches, fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell, within a week after dose two of a Covid-19 vaccine.

This compared to 11.3 per cent of vaccinated non-pregnant women.

The research found there was no significant difference in the rates of more serious health events leading to medical consultation between pregnant and non-pregnant women.

A study has suggested Covid vaccines are safe to use in pregnancy with pregnant women experiencing lower rates of health events post vaccination than similarly aged, non-pregnant vaccinated people.

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The study also looked at unvaccinated pregnant women. It found 3.2 per cent reported health events such as headaches and fatigue and more within a given week, suggesting some of the symptoms experienced by the vaccinated pregnant women may not be due to the vaccine.

The most common significant health events after dose two in pregnant females were a general feeling of being unwell, a headache/migraine, and respiratory tract infection.

Those taking part in the Canadian National Vaccine Safety (CANVAS) Network study, which took data from 5,597 participants across seven Canadian provinces and territories between December 2020 and November last year, were asked to self-report any health events during the seven days following each dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

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A ‘significant health event’ was defined as a new or worse health event that was enough to cause the participant to miss school or work, require medical consultation, and/or prevent daily activities in the previous seven days.

The study is one of the first to look at vaccine side effects in a group of vaccinated pregnant women at the same time as both an unvaccinated pregnant group and a vaccinated non-pregnant group to enable comparisons between the three. Authors said the data showed vaccines were safe in pregnancy.

Dr Manish Sadarangani, from the British Columbia Children's Hospital Research Institute and first author of this study, said: “In the early stages of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, there was low vaccine uptake among pregnant people due to concerns about data availability and vaccine safety.

"There still is lower than average uptake among non-pregnant women of reproductive age.

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"This information should be used to inform pregnant women about the side effects they may experience in the week following vaccination.”

Dr Julie Bettinger, senior author on the paper from the British Columbia Children's Hospital Research Institute, added: “The lower rate of significant health events amongst vaccinated pregnant people, compared with vaccinated non-pregnant individuals, is unexpected and requires more research.

"Previous studies on other vaccines in pregnant women have mostly reported no significant differences in health events between pregnant and non-pregnant women or have found higher rates in pregnancy.

"Further studies of non-Covid-19 mRNA vaccines are required to identify if the reduced side effects observed in pregnant people in this study is a feature of the mRNA vaccine platform, or of these specific vaccines.”

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Dr Sascha Ellington and Dr Christine Olson, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA, said: “These findings are consistent with and add to the growing body of evidence that Covid-19 mRNA vaccines are safe during pregnancy.”

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