Health chiefs are encouraging more pregnant women to come forward for their COVID-19 vaccine, as new data from Public Health England (PHE) show for the first time that 51,724 pregnant women in England have received at least one dose.
These were all women aged under 50 years of age, who reported that they were pregnant or could be pregnant at the time of receiving the vaccine. Of these, 20,648 women have received their second dose.
On 16 April 2021, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that pregnant women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group.
Some pregnant women will have been vaccinated before this date if they are clinically vulnerable or are a healthcare worker, therefore these figures are likely to be much higher.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“We are encouraged to see more than 50,000 pregnant women in England have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. We recommend vaccination in pregnancy as it’s the most effective way of protecting women and their babies from severe illness and premature birth.
“We are concerned that increasing rates of COVID-19 infection will adversely impact pregnant women. Of the pregnant women in hospital with COVID-19 last week, 95% were unvaccinated. We hope this reassuring data will help those undecided consider taking up the offer of a vaccine.”
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “It’s really encouraging that so many pregnant women have already come forward to the vaccine – particularly bearing in mind this figure doesn’t include the pregnant health and care workers or those who are clinically extremely vulnerable who would have received at least their first vaccine before 16 April. We’re all very aware of just how widely the virus is still circulating.
“That’s why it’s so important for pregnant women to take up the vaccine. We are seeing increasing numbers of pregnant women being admitted to hospital with serious illness, almost all of whom are unvaccinated. Pregnant women are at greater risk of serious illness if they get COVID, and those with severe COVID are twice as likely to experience a stillbirth and three times as likely to have a preterm baby. Getting the vaccine is the best way to keep you and your baby safe.
“So often, we mark out pregnancy landmarks in weeks, what size the baby is at 12 weeks or 22. Now we have a new landmark – eight weeks between the first jab and the second. If you have any concerns or any questions, speak to your midwife who will help you make the right decision for you and your baby.”
Though uncommon, severe illness due to COVID-19 is more likely in later pregnancy. Pregnant women who do get symptomatic COVID-19 infection are 2 to 3 times more likely to give birth to their baby prematurely.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are recommended for pregnant women in the UK because these vaccines have been given to over 130,000 pregnant women in the US and the data have not raised any safety concerns.
Women who are planning pregnancy, are in the immediate postpartum period, or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine, depending on their age and clinical risk group.
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Notes to editors
Read the PHE press release: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/health-chiefs-encourage-more-pregnant-women-to-get-their-covid-19-vaccine. Data is published here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccine-surveillance-report
The RCOG/RCM decision aid for pregnant women offered a COVID vaccination is available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/2021-02-24-combined-info-sheet-and-decision-aid.pdf
The RCOG has developed a range of information on our website for healthcare professionals and pregnant women eligible for COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy: www.rcog.org.uk/covid-vaccine
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website.