England’s top midwife is urging expectant mums to get the COVID-19 vaccine after new data shows the overwhelming majority of pregnant women hospitalised with the virus have not had a jab.
The new figures, released today, also reveal that no pregnant women with both doses of the vaccine had been admitted to hospital.
Since May, just three women had been admitted after having their first vaccine. In contrast, almost all (98%) pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID-19 had not been jabbed.
Now Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer for England, has written to fellow midwives and GP practices across the country stressing the need to encourage pregnant women to get the jab to protect them and their baby.
Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer for England, said: “Vaccines save lives, and this is another stark reminder that the COVID-19 jab can keep you, your baby and your loved ones, safe and out of hospital.
“Thanks to the planning, skill and dedication of hard-working staff the NHS COVID vaccination programme is the biggest in health service history and the most precise in Europe. But we need everyone to come forward and take up the evergreen offer of a jab which is why I am calling on pregnant women to take action to protect themselves and their babies and on my fellow midwives to ensure they have the information they need to do so.”
Since April, pregnant women have been offered the jab in line with their age cohort, and health leaders are calling on more younger adults to come forward and close the uptake gap.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives have both recommended vaccination as one of the best defences for pregnant women against severe COVID-19 infection, while the independent JCVI confirms the jab has been shown to be effective and safe for women carrying a baby.
Whilst broadly in line with the current rise in hospital admissions due to coronavirus, the new data, collated by the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS), shows the number of pregnant women being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 is increasing and many needing care are experiencing acute symptoms.
In the last three months alone, one in three pregnant women in hospital with COVID-19 in England required additional respiratory support (33%), with more than a third developing pneumonia (37%), and around one in seven needing intensive care (15%).
The data also shows that one in five women admitted to hospital with serious COVID symptoms went on to give birth prematurely, and the likelihood of delivery by caesarean section doubled. One in five babies born to mothers with COVID symptoms were also admitted to neonatal units.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “Every day our members are seeing very sick pregnant women with COVID-19 in hospital and the majority are unvaccinated. We want to reassure pregnant women that COVID-19 vaccines are the safest and best way to protect you and your baby from severe illness and premature birth. One dose of COVID-19 vaccination gives good protection against infection, so the sooner you can book your first appointment the better. You can have your second dose eight weeks after your first, which will provide a good level of immunity against the Delta variant. We thank the Chief Midwife for her efforts to encourage pregnant women to get the jab.”
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect you and your baby against COVID-19. It really is that simple. Hundreds of thousands of pregnant women worldwide have been vaccinated, safely and effectively protecting themselves against COVID and dramatically reducing their risk of serious illness or harm to their baby.
“It’s so important for pregnant women to get their jab, particularly with the virus being so prevalent and the Delta variant proving itself to be so much more transmissible. If you have questions, talk to your midwife, talk to your obstetrician, talk to your GP. Get the answers you need and get the jab.”
Real-world data from the United States shows that more than 130,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated without any safety concerns being raised and more than 55,000 pregnant women in the UK have also received at least one dose of the vaccine. Based on this data, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised earlier this year that pregnant women should be offered the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
Any pregnant women who have questions or concerns about the vaccine can speak to their GP, midwife or obstetrician to get more information and advice. Even if they have previously declined the vaccine, they can book an appointment to get their jab on the NHS National Booking Service website or call 119 between 7am and 11pm.