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RCOG supports calls from NHS to pregnant women to get vaccinated against COVID-19

News 11 October 2021

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) supports calls from the NHS, encouraging pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine as new data shows that nearly 20% of the most critically ill COVID-19 patients are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated.

Since July, one in five COVID-19 patients receiving treatment through a special lung-bypass machine were expectant mums who have not had their first jab.

Pregnant women have been treated with a therapy, called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), used only when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by COVID-19 that a ventilator cannot maintain oxygen levels.

Out of all women between the ages of 16 and 49 on ECMO in intensive care, pregnant women make up almost a third (32 percent) -  up from just 6 per cent at the start of the pandemic, March 2020.

A mum-to-be who spent nearly a month in an NHS hospital’s critical care unit after catching coronavirus during her pregnancy has now joined health chiefs in encouraging pregnant women to get the live-saving covid vaccine.

Claire, 33, from Kent, was hospitalised with coronavirus for a month in July this year, and wants fellow expectant mothers to know the serious health risks that not having the COVID-19 vaccine poses to them and their unborn baby.

Claire said: “I completely understand the hesitation not to get vaccinated when you are growing a child inside you, and after experiencing two miscarriages before the pandemic, the fear of being pregnant again with the worry of COVID-19 was sending my anxiety through the roof.

“But after what happened, I can honestly say that the risk of not having the COVID-19 vaccine far outweighs any doubts about having it.”

A few days after testing positive for COVID-19 on 7 July, Claire was admitted to her local hospital in Kent with difficulty breathing, where she was then put on a ventilator while in a medically induced coma.

Unfortunately, her condition deteriorated, so medics told Claire and her husband to prepare for the possibility of an emergency c-section at just 26 weeks into her pregnancy.

With her condition continuing to get worse, Claire was transferred to another hospital in London where the clinical team managed to ensure she did not need an early c-section.

On 4 August, nearly a month after she was initially admitted to hospital, Claire was allowed to go home, where she is gradually recovering with her husband, and their unborn child, who is doing well.

Claire is now urging other pregnant women to consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine to significantly reduce their risk of catching coronavirus and having the same experience.

Since vaccinations began in December 2020, almost every person who has received ECMO for COVID-19 in the UK has been unvaccinated, NHS data shows.

Data from Public Health England showed that over 81,000 pregnant women have received the first dose of the life-saving COVID-19 jab, and around 65,000 have received their second dose.

Health chiefs are now calling on all expectant mums to get vaccinated to protect them and their baby against coronavirus.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We are particularly concerned that in July and August this year more pregnant women were admitted to critical care with symptoms of COVID-19 than at any other point during the pandemic. Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) show around 20 pregnant women were admitted for critical care in March 2020, 45 in January 2021 and 80 this July.

“We have also sadly seen more deaths of pregnant women in this third wave than either of the previous two waves – at a time when these are vaccine preventable deaths. The MBRRACE-UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths has reported 13 pregnant or recently pregnant women died with COVID-19 in the third wave, 11 in the second and 9 in the first.

“More than 98% of the pregnant women admitted to hospital with symptoms of COVID-19 this year were unvaccinated, which provides strong evidence on the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing serious illness. With only around 15% of pregnant women in the UK fully vaccinated, we strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t yet accepted the vaccine to consider doing so – vaccination is recommended as the best way of protecting pregnant women and their babies from serious illness and premature birth.”

Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer for England, said: “This is another stark reminder that the COVID-19 jab can keep you, your baby and your loved ones, safe and out of hospital. You can receive vaccination at any time in pregnancy, but the risks that unvaccinated pregnant women face of becoming severely unwell if they catch COVID-19 show exactly why we advise you to do so as soon as possible”

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Having the COVID-19 vaccination could stop you from becoming seriously ill if you catch the virus, and it could even save your life. I appeal to all pregnant women who have not been vaccinated to consider having it so that they can avoid being one of these statistics, and to protect themselves, their babies and their families.”

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)7740 175342 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  • Data from over 100,000 covid vaccinations in pregnancy in England and Scotland, and a further 160,000 in the US, show there has been no subsequent harm to the foetus or infant.
  • Public Health England (PHE) publish figures for vaccine uptake in pregnant women every 4 weeks in its weekly surveillance reports. The latest figures were published in week 37 (page 8).
  • The NHS has arranged for the vaccine to be expectant mums at a number of convenient local locations, including at some antenatal clinics, and pregnant women are encouraged to speak to their GP or midwife if they have questions about getting the jab
  • We have an extensive Q&A section for pregnant women and their families on the RCOG website: www.rcog.org.uk/coronavirus-pregnancy

About the RCM

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.

 

About the RCOG

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 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.