Israel Recommends COVID Vaccination in All Stages of Pregnancy, Updating Guidelines

Health Ministry previously recommended that vaccines not be given to those in first trimester because of risk of unrelated complications. Top official: Vaccine 'outweighs' COVID-19 complications

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A medical worker prepares to administer a coronavirus vaccine in Tel Aviv, January 19, 2021.
A medical worker prepares to administer a coronavirus vaccine in Tel Aviv, January 19, 2021.Credit: Hadas Parush
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel updated its guidance for vaccines on Monday, saying that women in all stages of pregnancy could get vaccinated, rather than only those in the second or third trimesters.  

In a joint statement with several groups representing gynecologists and reproductive medicine specialists, the ministry said that “[t]here is no proof of any damage to the fetus or risk to pregnancy as a result of the vaccination, and no known biological mechanism could point to such a possibility.” The recommendation also applies to breastfeeding.

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Those planning a pregnancy or undergoing fertility treatments should get both doses before pregnancy, according to the recommendation.

Sharon Alroy-Preis, the Health Ministry's head of public health services, emphasized in a Channel 12 interview on Monday that reproductive medicine experts, as well as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the UN's World Health Organization, back this recommendation. She argued the vaccine "outweighs" any COVID-19 risks to pregnant women.

Last week, the Health Ministry said it did not recommend that pregnant women in their first trimester be vaccinated unless they were part of a high-risk population, citing "a relatively high incidence of hemorrhages, miscarriages and fetal malformations" during the first trimester. 

"To avoid any suspicion of connection, even coincidental, between the vaccine and the aforementioned phenomena, we recommend that pregnant women who do not belong to at-risk populations be vaccinated only after starting their second trimester," the ministry said at the time.

The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization said last week that it did not recommend the Moderna vaccine be used on pregnant women unless they are health workers exposed to the virus or have medical conditions putting them at high risk. WHO director of immunization Kate O’Brien said that clinical trials of the Moderna vaccine were needed on pregnant women. “There is no reason to think there could be a problem in pregnancy, we are just acknowledging the data is not there at the moment,” she said.

The WHO continues to not recommend giving the Pfizer vaccine to pregnant women, citing insufficient data.

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