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WHO says pregnant women should not get Moderna vaccine

Health body previously gave similar recommendation on Pfizer-BioNTech shot, a position rejected by Israel amid a spike in serious cases

A nurse draws a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Sacramento, California, January 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A nurse draws a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Sacramento, California, January 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

World Health Organization experts on Tuesday said the Moderna coronavirus inoculation was not recommended for pregnant women, unless they are at risk of high exposure.

“The vaccine can be offered to a breastfeeding woman who is part of a group recommended for vaccination (e.g. health workers),” the WHO additionally said.

The WHO earlier this month gave similar assessments on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, citing insufficient data. The vast majority of vaccinations in Israel deploy the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

However, Israel’s Health Ministry has advised pregnant women to get the coronavirus vaccine after a number of women expecting a baby fell seriously ill, with several babies delivered prematurely via Caesarean section due to life-threatening risks to the mothers and the children.

A health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine to a pregnant woman at the Clalit Health Services, in Tel Aviv on January 23, 2021(AFP)

Israeli officials have said more pregnant women were being infected with the British coronavirus variant and were at greater risk of developing serious symptoms.

The WHO also cautiously backed delaying second injections of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine in some situations.

The Moderna vaccine, like the Pfizer-BioNTech one, uses mRNA technology and is being rolled out in a number of countries.

Both vaccines require boosters after three to four weeks, but several countries facing limited vaccine supplies have said they will delay administering the second injection so that more people can get the first dose.

Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, Pool)

The WHO’s vaccine advisory group said it was best to respect the tested intervals of 28 days between doses.

But earlier this month, it said that in “exceptional circumstances” it was possible to wait for up to 42 days to administer the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and on Tuesday, it said the same for the Moderna jabs.

It warned though that “the evidence for this is not strong,” and stressed that “SAGE does not recommend halving the dose.”

The UN health agency has so far only approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use, but it is expected to soon issue approval for the Moderna jab as well.

SAGE also recommended Tuesday that the Moderna vaccine, like the Pfizer-BioNTech one, only be administered in settings that can deal with a potential anaphylactic reaction.

The WHO is calling for health care workers and the most vulnerable 20 percent of people in every country to receive COVID-19 shots before broadening immunization programs to other populations.

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