Pregnant, breastfeeding women no longer exempted from COVID vaccines

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By Vishani Ragobeer 

[email protected] 

Pregnant and breastfeeding women are among the groups of people who are no longer exempted from receiving the COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Narine Singh.

In an August 13 memorandum detailing the updated information for COVID-19 vaccination exemptions, the CMO said that pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, people who received blood donations and transfusions, and patients with underlying conditions could be exempted from getting vaccinated.

Breastfeeding mothers who do not wish to be vaccinated were allowed to be exempted for a period of six months from the date of the delivery.

On Thursday, however, the CMO told the News Room that the exemptions were changed because there is “new evidence now” showing that it is much safer for more groups of people to get vaccinated.

“Initially, we were cautious. There wasn’t strong evidence, but now with more evidence, we are encouraging pregnant women to get vaccinated,” CMO said.

Additional evidence, he said, has found that it is also safe for other groups of people that were previously exempted, to get vaccinated. Additionally, if these groups of people are not vaccinated, they will be required to produce a negative PCR COVID-19 test result before they are allowed to enter most buildings.

The CMO also said that the exemptions led to many people with underlying conditions applying for exemption certificates. But, he stressed that people with these underlying conditions are the ones who need to get vaccinated because they are more vulnerable to experiencing the more severe or life-threatening forms of COVID-19.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Narine Singh (Photo: News Room/October 08, 2020)

This revelation that the exemptions had been repealed was made on Thursday during his daily COVID-19 update with the Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony.

Then, Dr. Anthony stated that there are “probably two reasons” for getting vaccination exemptions. Those reasons, he explained, would be if an individual is allergic to a vaccine or, if an individual is allergic to some ingredient of the vaccine.

“For most of the other medical conditions, almost 99 per cent of medical conditions, it’s not a contraindication for you to get vaccinated.

“If there is that tiny one per cent of people, if you fall within that very small category, then the doctor who is seeing you should advise and those letters should go to the CMO for a countersignature and we would be able to grant it,” he said.

When asked by the News Room if his statements signal that the CMO’s vaccination exemptions were repealed, Dr. Anthony said, “They have been repealed a long time.”

According to him, those exemptions were no longer included in the COVID-19 Emergency Measures published in the Official Gazette. At the end of August, the new guidelines (No. 21) issued for the month of September included these exemptions.

On September 4, when a new set of guidelines (No. 22) were rolled out, replacing the earlier set, those exemptions were not printed. But, no indication that the CMO’s exemptions were repealed had been given.

Dr. Anthony also said that if any exemptions letters were issued without “proper medical information” then the medical practitioners who issued them will be placed before the medical council for investigation.

Meanwhile, the government is now using the US approved Pfizer vaccine to inoculate pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

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