"Pioneering" Chile moves to cover pregnant women with COVID-19 vaccines

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Chile
Chairs are seen inside a health care facility with signs reading 'Pfizer' as the seasonal flu vaccination campaign for children and elderly starts, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Santiago, Chile April 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo

SANTIAGO, April 28 (Reuters) - Chile has designated pregnant women a COVID-19 vaccination priority and this week began issuing Pfizer doses to those with underlying health issues in their second or third trimesters.

Chile's top public health official Paula Daza said women were being inoculated with the Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE.N), (22UAy.DE) vaccine since more information existed about its safety for pregnant women.

An estimated 230,000 will be offered vaccines, with those with health conditions followed by those working in high-risk jobs such as the health and education sectors.

Chile is running one of the world's fastest COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, so far inoculating health workers, teachers, civil servants, journalists, and age groups progressively - at present people in their 40s.

More than 52% of the 15.2 million people it aims to vaccinate by July have received one dose of a vaccine, and 41.6% have received two.

The country now becomes one of the first to roll out vaccinations for pregnant women. The UK updated its guidance on vaccines earlier this month to include pregnant women, and the United States at the weekend.

Brazilian authorities said on Tuesday that pregnant women would be included among priority groups for vaccination, starting with those with underlying illnesses.

The Brazilians also said in recent days that women should delay their pregnancies if they can, because of concerns the virus may hit them harder and overcrowding in hospitals.

Among those receiving a shot in the La Florida district of Chilean capital Santiago on Tuesday was Claudia Terrazas, 32, a pediatrician who is eight and a half months pregnant.

She told Reuters she was sold on the antibodies argument advanced by Israeli researchers this month, that women could confer vaccine protection on their offspring through placental transfer or breastmilk.

"This will help not only me but my son," she said.

Alfredo Bravo, La Florida's municipal health chief, said he was proud to be a vaccination "pioneer." "This is a process that is safe, and that pregnant women who choose to come can really trust," he said.

Reporting by Reuters TV, Additional reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun and Aislinn Laing; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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