The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) are urging all pregnant women to get their flu and COVID-19 vaccines, to offer themselves and their babies the best protection. Both vaccinations are free, and available to book from Monday 18 September.
Pregnant women have been prioritised for the autumn COVID-19 booster as they are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill. Serious COVID-19 infection late in pregnancy can also put their babies at risk, including an increased risk of being born prematurely. Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show that in 2021, the vast majority of pregnant women who have been admitted to intensive care with COVID-19 had not been vaccinated.
Developing flu can also be very serious for a small number of pregnant people and their babies, and can leave women at greater risk of complications such as bronchitis – a chest infection that can develop into pneumonia. In rare cases, flu infection in pregnancy can result in stillbirth, maternal death and an increased risk of miscarriage.
Dr Ranee Thakar, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:
“We are urging all pregnant women to get their free COVID-19 and flu vaccines, to give themselves and their babies the best protection this winter.
“Pregnant women are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and flu infection, and both viruses can cause severe illness in pregnancy. COVID-19 infection in pregnancy means you are more likely to develop severe illness and need hospital care compared to someone who is not pregnant.
“We want to reassure pregnant women and people that COVID-19 vaccination is safe at any stage of pregnancy, and for anyone planning a pregnancy. Vaccination is the best way to protect both women and their babies from becoming severely ill with COVID-19 and the flu.”
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said:
“Every woman wants to protect their baby during pregnancy, ad one of the best ways of doing that is through vaccination. COVID-19 and flu can have serious risks, not just to pregnant women, but to the baby as well. These vaccines are the safest, most effective way of protecting you and your baby. Talk to your midwife about getting the jabs, which are free and easily available.”
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has advised bringing the COVID-19 vaccination programme forward as a precautionary measure, as a result of a new COVID variant (BA2.86) being identified in the UK. All pregnant women are eligible for a free flu vaccine and an autumn COVID-19 booster from Monday 18 September.
All healthcare professionals working on the front line, including maternity teams, are also eligible for both a free flu and COVID-19 vaccines.
For media enquiries please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)7740 175342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
- From 18 September, pregnant women and people will be able to book COVID-19 vaccination online here via the National Booking System, via the NHS App, or by calling 119. National COVID-19 vaccination invitations will also start from 18 September.
- Those who are pregnant can book a free flu vaccine at their GP surgery, through their midwife, or any pharmacy that offers it on the NHS.