On 16 April 2021, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that the COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to pregnant women at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group.
Since then, recent data from Public Health England (PHE) has shown that 51,724 pregnant women in England have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
This follows research from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS), which found that the number of pregnant women who have experienced moderate to severe infection has significantly increased over the course of the pandemic. They also found that while 24% of pregnant women admitted in the first wave, had moderate or severe infection, this later increased to 36% of women with the Alpha variant and 45% with the Delta variant.
Furthermore, Gill Walton Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), recently stated that pregnant women were at greater risk of serious illness if they contracted COVID-19. The impact on their unborn child is also significant as women with severe COVID-19 are twice as likely to experience a still birth and three times more likely to deliver preterm.
Consequently, NHS England and NHS Improvement have published a letter discussing the heightened risks that COVID-19 poses to pregnant women and the importance of increasing vaccine uptake in this group.
The letter states that every time a pregnant woman is in contact with the NHS, she should be advised on the benefits of vaccination. The letter asks maternity and primary care services to take three immediate key actions; the first of which is for all GPs, practice nurses, midwives and obstetricians to provide objective vaccination advice to pregnant patients based on the best available evidence. The use of the PHE and RCOG/RCM leaflets is recommended.
As such, it is important that clinicians have fully documented in the relevant patient’s notes what vaccination advice has been given at each antenatal contact.
Secondly, primary care and antenatal settings should also ensure that the relevant information and materials are available to all women.
Thirdly, the letter highlights the importance of encouraging maternity staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, given that midwives have the lowest rate of vaccination at 84.5% (as shown in a recent study).
To learn more, read the full letter here.
This page was correct at publication on 20/08/2021. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.