Practise hygienic measures to protect moms and babies against Covid-19 and other harmful bacteria and viruses in our environments. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
Practise hygienic measures to protect moms and babies against Covid-19 and other harmful bacteria and viruses in our environments. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

UPDATED: Breastfeeding and pregnant women can now register for Covid-19 vaccine

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Jul 5, 2021

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The Health Department has announced that pregnant and breastfeeding women are now eligible for the Covid-19 vaccination.

This is good news for all new mothers as the government's vaccine programme had initially excluded pregnant and breastfeeding women due to a lack of data from the initial Covid-19 vaccine trials.

WIth the country experiencing a third wave, the news come as relief to mothers who have been worried about being denied the Covid-19 vaccine.

This is according to Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja, who added that for now pregnant and breast-feeding mothers who were part of the essential services, such as healthcare workers, education personnel, SAPS, the SANDF and anyone over 50 were eligible for the current roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines.

The announcement from health officials comes as a re-evaluation of the country's vaccine strategy with the number spiking in many provinces and the Delta variant spreading rapidly.

Speaking EWN, the department's Chief Director Lesley Bamford reportedly said: “The current recommendations are that Covid-19 vaccines, including the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, should be offered to all pregnant and breastfeeding women who are eligible to be vaccinated and who have completed 14 weeks of gestation.”

But after numerous queries, submissions and some backlash on social media, the Department of Health issued a retraction on the circular which states that special groups can apply to be vaccinated ahead of schedule.

“Following the circular on the vaccination of special groups and individuals against Covid-19 there have been numerous comments, queries and submissions that indicate that the Circular is unclear in its intentions,” said Deputy director-general of the department, Dr Nicholas Crisp.

Lisanne du Plessis, associate professor at Stellenbosch University and Association for Dietetics in South Africa spokesperson, gives her top five tips for breastfeeding moms during the pandemic:

  • Mothers should breastfeed on demand, whenever the baby wants to breastfeed, day and night.
  • Breastfeed exclusively for six months. Breast milk provides all the food and water that babies need during this time. Breast milk also protects babies against sickness or infection.
  • Do not give any other food or liquids to babies, not even water, during the first six months of life. Even during very hot weather, breast milk will satisfy babies’ thirst.
  • Giving babies under six months anything other than breast milk will cause them to suckle less, will reduce the amount of breast milk that a mother produces and may make babies sick.
  • Practise hygienic measures to protect moms and babies against Covid-19 and other harmful bacteria and viruses in our environments.

What precautions should a Covid-19 positive mom take?

The World Health Organization provides the following breastfeeding guidelines if you suspect or know you have Covid-19:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand rub, especially before touching the baby;
  • Wear a medical mask during any contact with the baby, including while feeding;
  • Sneeze or cough into a tissue. Then dispose of it immediately and wash hands for at least 20 seconds again;
  • Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces that you have touched.

It is vital that partners, family and friends support breastfeeding moms who may be Covid-19 infected.

They need to understand that there is no evidence that the virus is transmitted through breast milk, and that by continuing breastfeeding, the mother is doing the best she can do to protect her baby from Covid-19.

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