Benefits Of Maternal Vaccination Explained By Dr Neha Khandelwal
Maternal vaccination is essential in disease prevention; all pregnant women must take the necessary vaccines. But always remember to weigh the benefit vs the risk. In almost all cases, the benefits are far far more.
World Immunisation Week 2023: Preventing disease in the mother and fetus is essential in pregnancy. Ideally, women should be vaccinated before pregnancy. Increasing infectious diseases, travel abroad, and the covid pandemic are enough reasons to vaccinate our women. Pregnant women are at increased risk of acquiring infections because of an altered immune response and at increased risk of more severe outcomes. For example, influenza and covid in pregnant women could be more severe in pregnant women as compared to a non-pregnant woman. Vaccination reduces the risk of infection or the disease severity in case the women still get infected, as in covid infections. The fetus also has an immature immune response leading to an increased risk of infection, increased risk of severe outcomes and lifelong disability. Hence, Dr Neha Khandelwal, Director Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, New Delhi, East of Kailash,explains how maternal vaccination effectively protects fetuses from vaccine-preventable congenital conditions.
It also protects the newborn against various infections through the placental transfer of antibodies or the mother's breast milk. Neonatal vaccination, that is, newborn vaccination, is an alternative measure. Still, it relies on the infant's ability to produce neutralizing antibodies and is less likely to protect against pathogens in the first few weeks of life. Moreover, many vaccines cannot be administered until the infant is six weeks old and may require two doses before complete protection. Therefore, maternal vaccination narrows the window of vulnerability to infections for infants.
The Tetanus - Diphtheria-Acellular Pertussis vaccine is recommended in every pregnancy from 27-36 weeks regardless of the previous Td or Tdap status. This protects mothers and their babies from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis infections.
The Influenza vaccine is yet another essential vaccine which must be given to all pregnant women in the flu season-Septermber to April, or at any time in case they are close to delivery. This is because influenza in pregnant women has a high hospital admission rate and Acute respiratory distress syndrome. So this vaccine reduces the hospitalization rate in pregnant women. In addition, this vaccine also reduces the incidence of influenza in infants in the first six months of life by 63%, as newborns cannot receive it until they are six months old.
The benefits of the Covid vaccine outweigh the risks, if any. It reduces the risk of severe covid infection in pregnant women. All vaccines may have minor side effects because of the immune response they generate; the covid vaccine is no exception. Nevertheless, this vaccine is considered safe in all trimesters of pregnancy.
Hepatitis A And B Vaccines Can Be Used Where Necessary
There are also immunoglobulins available for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A Rabies, tetanus, varicella etc., for post-exposure prophylaxis, which is prevention in case a pregnant woman has got exposed accidentally. So contacting your healthcare provider in such a situation is very important. Other vaccines, like the typhoid vaccine, are not routinely recommended in pregnancy, but this can be taken if one travels to an endemic area. In addition, the meningococcal vaccine can be used in case of an outbreak of the disease and the pneumococcal vaccine in patients where it is indicated only.
So, maternal vaccination is essential in disease prevention; all pregnant women must take the necessary vaccines. But always remember to weigh the benefit vs the risk. In almost all cases, the benefits are far far more.