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THL chief physician: Advantages of vaccination outweigh risks for pregnant women

The potential risks for expectant mothers are exceedingly rare, according to Chief Physician Hanna Nohynek.

Astra Zeneca -rokotepullo ja rokoteruisku.
Under THL guidelines, pregnant women may take the coronary vaccine if they wish. Image: Jorge Gonzalez / Yle

The benefits of the coronavirus vaccine outweigh the disadvantages for pregnant women, according to Chief Physician Hanna Nohynek of the Infectious Disease Control and Vaccines Unit at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The THL said in early June that mothers-to-be can take coronavirus vaccine if they wish. According to the available research, foetuses are not harmed by the vaccine.

"We know that pregnant women have a higher risk of getting serious cases of Covid-19 than others of their age. This is due to physiological changes related to pregnancy," Nohynek told the Finnish News Agency STT.

Nohynek said that expectant mothers must make their own decisions about taking the vaccine. Does this mean that THL recommends vaccination while pregnant, or is it entirely up to each individual's own discretion?

"It's somewhere in the middle," she replied. "The decision to vaccinate is always the result of weighing the pros and cons. However, these are new vaccines and we are constantly gaining more information about them. A pregnant woman should consider her own situation so that there are no possible later accusations against herself or a health care professional," Nohynek said.

However, according to the chief physician, the benefits of the coronavirus vaccine outweigh the potential disadvantages. Many pregnant women are already vaccinated around the world. For example, in the United States and Britain, pregnant women were among those vaccinated first.

"Coronavirus contracted during pregnancy is not known to cause foetal deformity, but we know that high fever during pregnancy can contribute to premature birth," Nohynek said.

"The benefit-risk balance of vaccination protection is thus firmly on the benefit side when the risk of infection is significant," she added.

Disadvantages extremely rare

Nohynek hopes health professionals have time to respond to future parents' concerns about vaccination. She herself has been approached with questions from pregnant women who have been unable to get satisfactory answers from their own municipal health officials.

Based on the latest information, the vaccine is safe both in the early stages of pregnancy and in the final stage, she said.

"There is no time limit before the due date. There are various risks of thrombosis during childbirth and Covid-19 affects the bloodstream in terms of various blood clotting disorders, so it is wise to take the vaccine well in advance of the due date. The best possible protection is obtained after two doses," Nohynek said.

THL does not track specific data on vaccine coverage among pregnant women.

"The disadvantages are so rare that they are not detected when you monitor tens of thousands of people, only when you get into the hundreds of thousands. However, if disadvantages become apparent, we will discuss how many times greater the benefits in the situation are in comparison," she said.

Ohisalo: Decision to vaccinate was clear

Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green) said this week that she is expecting her first child in December. She also said in an Instagram post last month that she had received her first coronavirus shot. According to Ohisalo, taking the vaccine while pregnant was self-evident.

"Research data and expert opinion from health authorities indicate that there are no indications of safety concerns regarding the vaccination of pregnant women. According to the THL, pregnancy can increase the risk of developing serious Covid-19 infections, and in addition, I have to constantly meet quite many people in my work, even though we are careful about masks and social distancing, and prefer remote meetings. For these reasons too, I felt it was important to take the vaccine," the Greens chair told STT.

Ohisalo hopes that as many people as possible will take the opportunity to take the vaccine.

"By my example, I wanted to encourage people who are weighing the issue," she said.

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