Pregnant women should get Pfizer mRNA vaccine - RANZCOG and ATAGI

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Medical experts from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommend that pregnant women should be offered the Pfizer vaccine at any stage of their pregnancy.

According to the experts, women don't have to wait till childbirth to receive vaccination because the risk of severe outcomes from Covid-19 is much higher in pregnant women and unborn babies.

If you recall, RANZCOG had initially advised pregnant women to wait to get vaccinated because the low number of cases in Australia justified the wait until more evidence was available.

However, in their recent joint statement, the duo state that global research hasn’t yielded any information that suggests that mRNA vaccines are dangerous for pregnant women. Since the Pfizer vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, it only makes sense that expectant mothers be vaccinated as quickly as possible.

In a joint statement, the two organisations also indicated additional benefits for the unborn infant. “There is also evidence of antibodies in cord blood and breastmilk, which may offer protection to infants through passive immunity.”

Their published guidelines suggest that pregnant women may even be at risk for more severe complications due to Covid-19. “Pregnant women are potentially at increased risk of complications from any respiratory disease due to the physiological changes that occur in pregnancy,” according to the guidelines.

Even though the majority of pregnant women infected with Covid-19 experienced mild flu-like symptoms, they are also at tremendous risk. “These [complications] include reduced lung function, increased oxygen consumption and changed immunity. In particular, pregnant women with comorbidities are at higher risk of hospital admission, ventilation and severe illness.”

Read: CSOs Should Distribute COVAX, says the Guild

Women planning to get pregnant can also take the Pfizer vaccine

New Novavax is protective against many of the new Covid-19 variants

According to the results of the Novavax’s phase 3 trial, the vaccine is 90.4% effective against Covid-19 strains, including those that emerged since the pandemic began.

The phase 3 trial involved 29,960 participants across states in the US and Mexico, and the results also indicate that it offers complete protection against moderate and severe disease.

According to Associate Professor Paul Griffin who was a Principal Investigator for Novavax’s Phase 1/2 study, the results indicate that the vaccine could be rolled out by January 2022 in Australia.

“It’s likely to become a very important part of our vaccination strategy moving forward… This is a vaccine that we’re getting more and more data to support the fact that it’s safe and effective,” Associate Professor Griffin said.

“Pending supply, I think it’s certainly a vaccine we should have by the end of the year, and maybe in as little as three months or so,” he added.

The Australian Federal Government already confirmed an advance purchase agreement for 51 million doses of the vaccine so Novavax is currently working with the Therapeutic Goods Administration to secure the vaccine’s approval.

Speaking on the vaccine’s role in Australia’s rollout plan, Associate Professor Griffin added, “It’s a very different type of vaccine to Moderna and Pfizer. Those mRNA vaccines do require to be frozen at quite cold temperatures so aren’t as easy to move around.” However, Novavax’s vaccine is stable at 2-8°C.

Associate Professor Griffin also added, “In a country like ours, particularly as we expand the roll-out to include more remote GP practices and even pharmacies, that makes Novavax ideally suited to those types of applications.”

Read: Australians React to the AstraZeneca Vaccine

More GP specialists are needed in Australia

The latest research shows that non-GP specialists are growing at an annual rate of 4.5% as opposed to the 3.5% for GPs.

According to RACGP President Dr Karen Price, the number needs to go up. “We need to set a target … we need 50% of graduates choosing general practise as their specialty of choice,” she noted.

Consequently, the RACGP has launched a new model for general practice training (RACGP profession-led community-based training) in response to the nationwide shortage of GPs. One state, in particular, is in dire need of GPs, Tasmania, as the lack of doctors in rural areas negatively impacts the health of the community.

“At the moment we’ve got some 50 positions available on the Rural Workforce Agency to be filled in Tassie,” RACGP Tasmania Chair Dr Tim Jackson reported.

Part of this college-led, community-based training is getting an opportunity to look at ways in which we can improve the situation and improve the workforce, starting with the training and selection of registrars to go rural and remote.”

Read: GPs are key to border reopening

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