The Jamaican ministry of health today clarified that it is not yet recommending pregnant or lactating women to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, unless they are at a very high risk of being exposed to COVID-19, or are likely to become severely ill from the virus.
“The AstraZeneca Vaccine is not recommended for pregnant or lactating mothers at this time, except for those who are healthcare workers with a high risk of exposure or women with comorbidities that places them in a high risk group for severe COVID-19,” the ministry said on Twitter, in response to a question asked by local mom Kemesha Swaby.
The advice is partially reflective of that of the World Health Organization (WHO), which leaves the decision up to each pregnant woman and her doctor, noting that there is “very little data are available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy.”
“Pregnant women may receive the vaccine if the benefit of vaccinating a pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks,” WHO says. “For this reason, pregnant women at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. health workers) or who have comorbidities which add to their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated in consultation with their health care provider.”
When it comes to breastfeeding women however, the Jamaican health ministry errs on the side of caution, while WHO says the vaccine is safe.
“Vaccination can be offered to breastfeeding women if they are part of a group prioritized for vaccination. WHO does not recommend discontinuation of breastfeeding after vaccination,” the global body says.
Jamaica is now gearing up to vaccinate at least 50,000 people in the next few days, including teachers, employees at Jamaica Customs, the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), those formally employed in the tourism sector, and citizens who are 60 years old or older. Healthcare workers and other essential service providers have already begun the inoculation process.
AstraZeneca is the only COVID-19 vaccine currently available in Jamaica.