Pfizer vaccine appointments for pregnant women will be brought forward at ACT government vaccination clinics in the coming weeks, as the cohort is being encouraged to get vaccinated.
ACT health authorities have stressed the importance of vaccines for pregnant women, with Canberra Health Services acting clinical director of obstetrics Dr Natalie De Cure saying the group was vulnerable to COVID infection.
"We know that women in pregnancy who have COVID are more likely to suffer severe illness," Dr De Cure said.
"They're also more likely to be hospitalised, and also more likely to need intensive care treatment."
Women in their 30s have been reported among some of the most hesitant to get a COVID vaccine.
Pregnant women were not included in the initial clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine. However, further research shows the vaccine has been proved to be safe.
"The Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as the Australian College of Midwives are very strong advocates for vaccination in pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy," Dr De Cure said.
"This confidence they have is drawn from global data, there are tens of thousands of women, possibly more, coming from the UK and the US who all received Pfizer at all stages of pregnancy whether it's first trimester or right at the end.
"This data did not show any increased rates of adverse outcomes for either mum or baby."
Dr De Cure stressed the Pfizer vaccine was not a live vaccine, meaning there was no risk of transmission of infection to a baby in the womb.
"Pfizer works by triggering the mother's immune response to make natural antibodies to protect her from getting the infection in the first place but if she does [it's] a reduced severity of illness," Dr De Cure said.
Dr De Cure also said the vaccine did not cross the placenta and the baby was not exposed to the Pfizer jab, but it could still be born with some protection from the virus.
"The added advantage is that we know that this vaccine is degraded very quickly in the maternal system, soon after it's given and equally does not cross the placenta," she said.
"What we also know is that the antibodies that mum makes do cross the placenta. So we've got that added potential that baby may be born with some protection."
It is recommended that pregnant women get both vaccines before they give birth and Dr De Cure said there was no increased risk of a miscarriage if you got the vaccine in the first trimester. Likewise, there was no risk if you got the vaccine while trying to conceive.
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Pfizer is the recommended vaccine for pregnant women, as there has not been extensive research undertaken on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Dr De Cure said if you received the first AstraZeneca dose but fell pregnant before the second dose, doctors would provide individualised advice.
In the coming weeks, ACT Health will prioritise vaccine bookings for pregnant women.
People who have booked appointments have been told to call the ACT vaccination booking hotline to bring forward existing appointments.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr emphasised pregnant women did get priority, but acknowledged the territory was constrained by supply, after reports pregnant women had to wait up to two months to be vaccinated.
"This delay in being able to vaccinate everyone is a frustration," Mr Barr said.
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