There has been an alarming increase in the number of pregnant women contracting Covid-19, director of Women’s Health at the Ministry of Health Dr Adesh Sirjusingh said yesterday.
In the past week alone, 68 pregnant women tested positive for the virus, Sirjusingh disclosed.
He was speaking during the ministry’s virtual media conference yesterday when he noted the spike in cases among expectant mothers.
“We have now, as of Monday, 383 pregnant women in our database who have contracted Covid-19,” he said. “And I was here just a week ago and that figure was 315. So an additional 68 women would have contracted Covid-19 since we last spoke. And that is very alarming.”
Sirjusingh said: “The numbers are rising and pregnancy is of course considered a high-risk situation. You’re more likely to end up getting very ill or ending up in an ICU (intensive care unit), and worldwide we’ve seen maternal deaths.”
Trinidad and Tobago has recorded one Covid-related maternal death to date.
Sirjusingh appealed to pregnant women to get vaccinated, noting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for pregnant women from their second trimester.
The Sinopharm vaccine is also approved for breastfeeding mothers, he added.
Sirjusingh noted the vaccines are being administered at mass vaccination sites and at antenatal and postnatal clinics.
“We are trying to get the vaccines in the major antenatal clinics. I know Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) would have started this week. We’re also targeting the postnatal wards in some of the RHAs, and this includes use of the Sinopharm for the breastfeeding mothers, as well as the Pfizer vaccination.”
Sirjusingh stressed that the vaccines are safe, noting more than 300,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated worldwide, with no reports of adverse effects.
He said the side effects of the vaccine are no different for a pregnant woman than for anyone else.
“In terms of the safety, the mRNA vaccine lasts in your system for a very brief moment and triggers your immune system, and is then eliminated from your system. The vaccine does not cross the placenta. If you’re breastfeeding, the vaccine does not go into the breast milk.
“The antibodies however cross the placenta and the antibodies are excreted in the breast milk and give your baby some level of protection,” he explained. “We have not seen any adverse pregnancy-related outcomes worldwide nor here in Trinidad and Tobago.”
In Trinidad and Tobago, more than 155 pregnant women have been vaccinated over a five-day period since the rollout of the programme, and the ministry is aiming to vaccinate at least 1,000 eligible women monthly, Sirjusingh said.
Daily cases rising
Covid-19 cases among pregnant women is however not the only increase the country has been seeing.
Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards, principal medical officer-Institutions, said the overall daily confirmed cases have also been showing a small but steady increase.
She noted the rolling average, which was around 200 since June and which was at 209 last week, now stands at 215.
Additionally, she said the rate of admissions of new patients continues to exceed the rate of discharges.
The occupancy rate across all Covid-19 facilities now stands at 37 per cent, she said.
Abdool-Richards also stressed the importance of vaccination, noting almost all the patients admitted to the intensive care unit with complications from the virus were not fully vaccinated.
“Ninety-nine per cent of persons being admitted to the ICU department have not been fully vaccinated, and 99 per cent of deaths from May 9 to present are persons who were not fully vaccinated,” she said during the ministry’s media conference.
“This can be interpreted as vaccines being a life-saving tool for persons and to prevent them from being hospitalised with Covid-19.”