Pregnant women, lactating mothers urged to take jab

Monday, August 23rd, 2021 00:00 | By
A woman receives the Covid vaccine. Photo/File

The government has now extended the free Covid-19 vaccination campaign to pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers as it moves to cover as many Kenyans as possible.

Making the announcement at the weekend, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe directed all vaccination centres not to turn away pregnant and lactating mothers seeking to be vaccinated, and should instead give them a priority.

He confirmed that both the Kenya Medical Association and Kenya Obstetrical and Gynecological Society had sanctioned the vaccination of expectant and breastfeeding mothers.

“Our vaccinating staff has been advised not to turn away pregnant women or lactating mothers.

Instead, they should be counseled and given the vaccine if they request for one, focusing on the potential benefits and unknown risks,” said Kagwe.

Kagwe, in a statement, downplayed claims that the vaccine is not safe for pregnant and lactating mothers.

According to Dr Gitahi Githinji, the group CEO of Amref Health Africa, studies from the US and European Union have already shown that Covid-19 vaccine is safe for such women.

Severely ill

Warning that pregnant women can be at a greater risk of getting severely ill with Covid-19, Dr Githinji urged them to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their babies and families.

According to Dr Githinji, the risk of being very ill with Covid-19 is increased in the late stage of pregnancy, in part due to the pressure on the lungs by the foetus.

Besides, mothers who give birth while infected are more likely to require emergency Caesarean section and pose a high rate of stillbirths.

“We know that those who are pregnant with Covid-19 are at an increased risk of becoming severely ill and the vaccine is the safest and most effective way of protecting women and their babies,” said Dr Githinji.

The decision by Kenya follows in the steps by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) of the USA that has advised all pregnant women to be vaccinated like the rest of the population, allaying earlier fears that the jab could be harmful to them.

A research in the US that involved more than 90,000 pregnant women found no risk and experts allayed fears of risk of increased miscarriage as the vaccine does not appear to cross from the mother to the child via the placenta.

The government’s latest move to include pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers in the vaccination bracket is part of measures to increase the vaccine uptake.

No salary

A mandatory vaccination campaign for all public servants is under way. On Friday, the government warned that those who would not have taken the jab by today would face serious consequences including withholding of salary, denial of access to office and withdrawal of benefits and allowances.

In a circular from the Ministry of Public Service dated August 18 and signed by the Principal Secretary Mary Kimonye, the government ordered that all civil servants receive their first jab by today.  

“It has been noted that there has been low uptake of Covid-19 vaccination by public servants with some deliberately avoiding to get vaccinated so that they can stay away from work.

In this regard, all officers are directed to ensure they are vaccinated in the ongoing vaccination exercise failure to which disciplinary action not limited to the following will be taken as per the directive from the head of Public Service; i. denial of access to office; ii. Stoppage of salary; iii. Withdrawal of benefits/allowance,” read the statement.

Teachers also have until today to receive the jab or face similar penalties. This was after the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) gave them a one-week ultimatum to take the jab or face unspecified consequences.

The directive was issued by the TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia in Nakuru last Monday.

Antibody transfer

Kagwe said whereas there is limited data regarding the effects of Covid-19 vaccine on pregnant and breastfeeding women, the government is cognizant of the fact that pregnancy poses increased susceptibility to severity of a disease.

Besides, one of the best approaches to protect infants is through passive placental antibody transfer, which provides the most efficient and direct protection to the new-born before an infant can be vaccinated.

“The Ministry of Health urges all Kenyans who are aged above 58 years, teachers, health workers, security officers, public servants and those aged eighteen years with comorbidity conditions not to hesitate taking up Covid-19 vaccine that is offered nearest to them,” he said. 

Kagwe called for personal responsibility in observance of public health and social distance measures, especially in public transport vehicles, schools, churches and homes.

The Minister said there is need for all Kenyans to ensure they continue to strictly adhere to the containment measures if the country is to curtail the spread of the virus whose cases have been rising.

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