NHS encourages pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccine

The NHS is encouraging pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine as new data shows that nearly 20 per cent of the most critically ill COVID patients are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated.

Since July, one in five COVID 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 that a ventilator cannot maintain oxygen levels.

England’s top midwife is today reassuring women that the vaccine is safe and effective during pregnancy and is recommended by clinicians and charities.

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 was sending my anxiety through the roof.

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

A few days after testing positive for COVID 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 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 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 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.

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”.

COVID vaccination in pregnancy is considered safe and is recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians, Royal College of Midwives and the UK Tetralogy Service.  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.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 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.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We are urgently calling for all pregnant women to come forward for their vaccinations. There is robust evidence showing that the vaccine is the most effective way to protect both mother and baby against the possibility of severe illness from COVID-19. The disproportionate number of unvaccinated pregnant women in intensive care demonstrates that there is a significant risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in pregnancy.

“We do understand women’s concerns about having the vaccine in pregnancy, and we want to reassure women that there is no link between having the vaccine and an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth.”

Pregnant women were first offered the vaccine in December 2020, if they were health or care workers or in an at risk group. Since April 2021, pregnant women have been offered the vaccine as part of the standard age based rollout of the vaccination programme. 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.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “It is desperately sad that nearly 1 in 5 COVID-19 patients who are most critically ill are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated. This shows just how important it is that expectant mothers get the vaccine to keep themselves and their babies safe.

“Over 81,000 pregnant women have so far received their first dose, with 65,000 being double-jabbed, which is fantastic, but there’s still more to be done.

“The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant women and I urge everyone to get their vaccines as soon as they can to secure this significant protectio”.