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Offer Covid-19 vaccines to pregnant women – KUCO

Joseph Matinda and his late wife Martha Sempewut, who passed on at Nairobi Women Hospital on Friday.
Joseph Matinda and his late wife Martha Sempewut, who passed on at Nairobi Women Hospital on Friday.
Given that clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines specifically in pregnant women have not yet been conducted (some are underway or planned soon), limited data are available on their efficacy and safety during pregnancy.

The Kenya Union of Clinical Officers says the global position is pregnant women should be offered Covid-19 vaccines as benefits outweigh any possible risks.

The union’s Secretary-General, George Gibore in a statement says his union is concerned that so far they have lost three pregnant members in 2 months to Covid-19.

“The latest being Martha Sempewut, 24, who until her demise on Friday was working in Kitengela Sub-County Hospital in Kajiado under the Universal Health Care program,” said Gibore.

Sempewut, Gibore said, was induced to deliver after it became apparent that the life of her unborn child was also at risk.

“The baby is under the care of Nairobi Women Hospital after its mother passed on Friday. The bill is now over Sh2 million, and might even go higher because of the child,” said the SG.

The clinical officer was rushed to Nairobi Women Hospital after Kitengela Sub-County Hospital ran out of Covid-19 patients’ beds.

The late Martha Sempewut worked for Kajiado county government's UHC program at Kitengela sub-county hospital before her demise on Friday.
The late Martha Sempewut worked for the Kajiado county government’s UHC program at Kitengela sub-county hospital before her demise on Friday.

He said Sempewut’s death is the second among clinical officers due to vulnerability brought about by pregnancy within one month.

“It has become apparent that pregnancy predisposes to severe and critical disease, and especially with the fact that this is the 3rd reported case among healthcare workers who have died in this manner,” said the union boss.

This, Gibore said, is further compounded by the fact that pregnant women are not currently being vaccinated against Covid-19.

Gibore claimed that it is unfortunate that the county governments do not provide health workers with comprehensive medical insurance cover and comprehensive group life cover since they declined to sign the agreement reached in January 2021 between the union and the Ministry of Health.

He said the union, therefore, demands that; all pregnant and vulnerable clinical officers and by extension other health workers be excused from active duty until the fourth wave of Covid-19 is controlled.

Secondly, the union said, all county governments provide all clinical officers, including those on contracts and any other stimulus program, with comprehensive medical insurance cover and group insurance cover.

Lastly, the union called on the government to employ additional 3,000 clinical officers immediately to curb the acute shortage and replace the vulnerable as well as those in quarantine and isolation.

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) says that although the absolute risk of severe coronavirus in pregnancy remains low, it is now established that pregnant women are at increased risk of severe COVID-19-associated illness compared with non-pregnant women.

FIGO is in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and has consultative status with the United Nations (UN).

FIGO says such illness can require hospitalisation, intensive care unit admission, mechanical ventilation and even cause death, and thus, preventing critical COVID-19 infection is of paramount importance for both the mother and her foetus.

FIGO Position

Given that clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines specifically in pregnant women have not yet been conducted (some are underway or planned soon), limited data are available on their efficacy and safety during pregnancy.

Hence, there is not sufficient evidence to recommend the routine use of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Limited data from animal studies are reassuring and do not indicate direct or indirect harmful effects on embryo/fetal development or pregnancy, said FIGO in her March 2 statement.

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