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Mumbai: 1,032 lactating women get jab, turnout of pregnant women zero

Mumbai is the first city in India to allow vaccination for pregnant women, with a caveat that pregnant women give a consent form and get a gynecologist certificate that they are fit for vaccination.

Mumbai has immunised more than 1,000 lactating women, but so far there has been zero turnout of pregnant women at Covid-19 vaccination centres for a jab.

Mumbai is the first city in India to allow vaccination for pregnant women, with a caveat that pregnant women give a consent form and get a gynaecologist certificate that they are fit for vaccination. A combination of hesitancy by gynaecologists to issue certificates, lack of awareness among pregnant women, and in some cases refusal to immunise by vaccination centres has led to zero turnout so far.

Mumbai has immunised 1,032 lactating women after the Centre issued a notification on May 19 to start their vaccination. Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner, said lactating women have to produce the birth certificate of their newborn to get a jab.

BMC decided to go a step further and also allow pregnant women if they get a gynaecologist’s certificate and consent form. “We have instructed all our centres to allow pregnant women, but so far it seems no pregnant women has come,” he said.

Each vaccination centre has to create a separate queue for pregnant and lactating women. NESCO vaccination centre, however, said they opened up vaccination for only lactating women.

Some gynaecologists have refrained from issuing certificates over fear of accountability. Gynaecologist Dr Nikhil Datar said a few pregnant women approached him but he did not issue a certificate. “Why does the government want to fix responsibility on doctors for giving certificates? India should issue a national guideline allowing vaccination for pregnant women instead of asking us to issue a certificate. Vaccination is safe during pregnancy,” Datar said.

Dr Sangeeta Pikale, based in Mahim, said she has counselled pregnant women to take the vaccine but there is hesitancy among them. “And there is also hesitancy among doctors. There could be rare thrombotic embolism after vaccination in pregnant women, doctors don’t want to be blamed for any such adverse event,” she said.

Dr Ashok Anand, head of gynaecology department in JJ hospital, said pregnant women are also not fully aware about vaccination and that it is safe for the baby. “Pregnant women are not confident about taking the jab, they worry about its impact. Since there is no awareness on this subject, not many are inquiring about it,” he said. Anand said he is ready to issue certificates but has not been approached by anyone.

The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) has recommended vaccination for pregnant women, stating it gives double protection to the mother and the newborn. FOGSI member Dr Bipin Pandit said he has issued certificates to some women but they are yet to receive a jab.

Priyanka Chaturvedi, Shiv Sena leader, said that National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) is yet to approve and roll out a national guideline for immunisation of pregnant women. “I believe until then it will take time to streamline the process. The BMC commissioner even wrote to health secretary Rajesh Bhushan about it. There may be communication issues with vaccination centres,” Chaturvedi said.

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