Experts are urging more mothers-to-be to have a Covid-19 vaccine as new data for England shows vaccines are safe in pregnancy.
Figures published by the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) show that women who have received a Covid vaccine are no more likely than unvaccinated ones to suffer from premature births, premature births or have babies with low birth weight.
Experts described the findings as reassuring, with Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunization at UKHSA, saying, “Any pregnant woman who has not yet been vaccinated should feel safe going for the vaccine.”
The call was backed by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which said women shouldn’t risk contracting Covid-19, which can have “serious consequences for both mother and baby”, particularly in the latter. stages of pregnancy.
One in five of the most seriously ill Covid patients in hospital since July are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated.
Of all pregnant women admitted to hospital with the virus, 98% are not vaccinated.
About a fifth of pregnant women who end up in hospital with Covid need to give birth early in order to recover, while one in five children need treatment in a neonatal ward.
Despite the risks, only 22% of women who gave birth in August had opted for a vaccine.
While prevalence among pregnant women is improving, experts are concerned about some groups avoiding the vaccine, including younger women, those in more disadvantaged areas, and women from black and minority ethnic communities.
New figures for England released by UKHSA cover the eight-month period between January and August of this year.
It examined 355,299 women who gave birth, of whom 24,759 had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The data found that no fully vaccinated and pregnant women were admitted to the ICU with Covid between February and the end of September.
It also found that:
– The stillbirth rate for vaccinated women who gave birth was approximately 3.35 per 1,000, slightly lower than the rate for unvaccinated women (3.60 per 1,000) observed from January to August.
– The proportion of vaccinated women giving birth to low birth weight babies (5.28%) was similar to the proportion of unvaccinated women (5.36%).
– The percentage of premature births was 6.51% for the vaccinated and 5.99% for the unvaccinated.
The UKHSA said the small differences between the groups can be explained by the differences in women eligible and taking the vaccine.
The data also found that women living in the most deprived areas of England were less likely to be vaccinated with at least one dose before giving birth.
Only 7.8% of women living in the most deprived areas of England received a vaccine during pregnancy, compared with 26.5% in less deprived areas.
Black women were also the least likely to be vaccinated at birth (5.5%), followed by women of Asian (13.5%) and mixed ethnicity (14%).
Women who came from a white background were the most vaccinated (17.5%) of the group.
Dr Ramsay said: “Any pregnant woman who has not yet been vaccinated should feel safe going for the vaccine and that this will help prevent the serious consequences of contracting Covid-19 in pregnancy.
“This accumulation of evidence will also allow midwives and other healthcare professionals to provide better information to pregnant women and help increase absorption.
“Our figures also highlight strong inequalities in absorption with many of the most vulnerable women in our society not being vaccinated.
“It is vital that women of all backgrounds accept their offer of their vaccine to protect themselves.”
Dr Mary Ross-Davie, director of professional midwife at RCM, said: “RCM is urging women to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Our rigorous safety monitoring of these vaccines in pregnancy shows that the vaccines are safe and that there is no increased risk of pregnancy complications, miscarriage or stillbirth.Dr June Raine, Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency
“Having Covid-19 during pregnancy carries a much higher risk than the vaccine, particularly in the later stages where it can have serious consequences for both mother and baby.
“It can double the chance of stillbirth and triple the chance of preterm birth, which can have a long-term health impact for the baby.”
Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Health and Welfare, said: “This pandemic has created a lot of fear and uncertainty for those thinking about pregnancy or expecting a baby, with Covid-19 being very dangerous for pregnant women, in particular.
“It is therefore very important that they get their vaccine against Covid-19, which has now protected hundreds of thousands of pregnant women around the world.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, primary care physician and deputy head of the NHS Covid-19 vaccination program, said: “This new and encouraging research shows that there are no significant concerns about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines in pregnancy. “.
Dr June Raine, Chief Executive Officer of the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency, said: “We want to reassure all pregnant women that Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective to use at all stages of pregnancy.
“Our rigorous safety monitoring of these vaccines in pregnancy shows that the vaccines are safe and that there is no increased risk of pregnancy complications, miscarriage or stillbirth.
“Our advice remains that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks for most people, including those who are pregnant.”
Elsewhere, NHS England has announced that the Covid-19 vaccination program has now delivered 95 million doses across England, including boosters.