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Unvaccinated pregnant women at increased risk of severe disease

Although the UK boasts one of the fastest vaccination programs in the world, estimates based on GP records and Public Health England data suggest hundreds of thousands of pregnant women have not had the Covid jab as the numbers of mums-to-be in hospital with the virus rises.

Why are pregnant women more at risk?

Precent data suggests that pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect pregnant women from severe illness from COVID-19.

Chief midwife for England Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent stepped up her call for pregnant women to get the Covid jab and says all healthcare professionals have "a responsibility to proactively encourage pregnant women" to get vaccinated. Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent also 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’.

UK Obstetric Surveillance data shows that amongst pregnant women admitted to UK hospitals:

  • The proportion admitted with moderate to severe Covid has increased with the Delta variant compared to previous strains
  • In the last three months, 171 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with Covid symptoms
  • Some 98% were unvaccinated and just three had received a single dose of the vaccine
  • About one in three pregnant women in hospital with Covid-19 developed pneumonia
  • About one in seven needed intensive care
  • About one in five admitted to hospital with Covid go on to give birth prematurely and their likelihood of having a caesarean section increases

Lead researcher professor Marian Knight, from Oxford University, has said that when the Alpha variant of the virus was dominant ,in the winter, one in 10 pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid required intensive care but with the Delta variant the figure has risen to one in seven.

What do pregnant women say?

Yvonne O’Connor, 36 weeks pregnant, said ‘Luckily, I haven’t had Covid at all’, ‘But I just thought it was important to have it to protect me and the baby now as well. So I decided to di it’

Victoria Rawlings, who is due to give birth in November, said she was really nervous before having her first jab. ‘"And then I did a bit more reading and thought, actually, this is perfect," she said she feels ‘much safer’ and ‘much freer’ to go out.

On the other hand Iona Debarge, 30 weeks pregnant, was nervous about getting the vaccine as she felt It was still very new and she said ‘I think if it had been going for five years or something like that, I would feel more confident to get it done. That's why I'm still hesitating’

But is the vaccine safe? And what do the experts say

Prof Knight told BBC Radio 4 that the study shows the vaccine is very protective with no concerns over safety and that pregnant women could be confident about having the vaccine. "Pregnant women were obviously naturally hesitant because there wasn't any evidence, but women can be reassured now because we have this real-world evidence about the vaccine being used in practice," she said. She also mentioned that by getting the vaccine not only would pregnant women be protecting themselves but also their unborn babies by passing on the protective antibodies.

Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said ‘One dose of Covid-10 vaccination gives good protection against infection, so the sooner you can book your first appointment the better’

Dr Sarah McMullen, of the National Childbirth Trust, said she was ‘’extremely concerned’ and that ‘It is understandable that pregnant women have questions and hesitations about vaccinations and they need to be able to trust in the information and support to make an informed decision’.

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