Reader question: Are pregnant women able to get Covid vaccines in Switzerland?
A number of countries are already administering shots to expectant mothers. When can they expect the jab in Switzerland?
One of the major challenges with vaccinating pregnant women against coronavirus - or indeed against any other virus - 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.
In some countries such as neighbouring Austria, the response has been to offer vaccination to those around pregnant women, in order to minimise their possible exposure.
Here's what you need to know.
Are pregnant women at risk?
The first question that arises is: are pregnant women more at risk from Covid-19?
The answer comes from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States.
“Based on what is known at this time, pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19 compared to non-pregnant women. Additionally, pregnant women with Covid-19 might have an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth".
Switzerland's Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) also said the risk was between 1.5 to five times higher for pregnant women, with the risks also extending to the unborn child.
So can pregnant women get the jab in Switzerland?
Initially, FOPH had excluded pregnant women from the vaccination campaign, arguing that “so far, there are few findings or data on the effects of the COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy”.
However, FOPH has revised its position on April 14th, possibly in view of international studies that “did not show obvious safety signals among pregnant persons who received mRNA Covid-19 vaccine”.
Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna vaccines, both of which are used in Switzerland, are based on the mRNA technology.
While FOPH still states that “the vaccination is not recommended across the board for pregnant women”, it does say that in some circumstances “it is advisable”.
FOPH set the following rules for inoculating during pregnancy:
- Only high-risk pregnant women can be vaccinated during the second or third trimester. These risks are the same as for general population, including chronic diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, respiratory illnesses, and other medical conditions that would be worsened by coronavirus.
- Information on the advantages and disadvantages, as well as the risks of vaccination, should be given to the patient by her gynecologist / obstetrician.
- The woman must sign a consent form for the vaccination.
- The obstetrician will then give the patient a prescription for the vaccine, which she should present to the vaccination centre.
Both the consent form and the prescription are available in French, German, and Italian, but not in English.
Once the prescription has been obtained, the woman can register for the vaccine via the online platform in her canton of residence.