England’s chief midwife has stepped up her call for pregnant women to get the Covid jab as soon as possible.
Estimates based on GP records and Public Health England data suggest hundreds of thousands have not had the jab, as the number of mums-to-be in hospital with the virus rises.
Other data suggests the Delta variant increases the chance of severe disease.
In the last three months, 171 pregnant women with Covid needed hospital care – but none had had both jabs.
In a letter to midwives, obstetricians and GP practices, chief midwife for England Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent says all healthcare professionals have “a responsibility to proactively encourage pregnant women” to get vaccinated.
She recommends advice on jabs be offered at every opportunity.
‘Admitted every day’
Public Health England data suggests about 51,724 pregnant women have received one Covid vaccine in England so far. Of these, around 20,648 have had their second dose.
This is out of approximately 606,500 pregnant women in England in 2020-21, based on estimates from GP records.
While uncommon, severe illness with Covid-19 is more likely in later pregnancy.
RUK Obstetric Surveillance data looking at pregnant women admitted to English hospitals up to July, shows:
- 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 Prof Marian Knight, from Oxford University, said she was very concerned about the recent rise in pregnant women in hospital with the disease – though numbers are not as high as those seen during earlier peaks in the pandemic.
She said: “Though this rise is in line with increases we are seeing in the young population, I am concerned because recent surveys have shown many pregnant women still have some worries about getting the jab.
“And while around 51,000 have had a jab in England, more than 600,000 give birth each year – that suggests a lot of women have not yet had a vaccine. And we know the vaccines work in real life.”
Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said doctors were seeing very sick pregnant women with Covid-19 in hospital every day, and most were unvaccinated.
He added: “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.”
Dr Sarah McMullen, of the National Childbirth Trust, said she was “extremely concerned” that many pregnant women remain unvaccinated and vulnerable, and strongly encouraged women to consider having the jab
She added: “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.
“We’ve been really frustrated to hear of so much misinformation and the confusion this has caused.”
Since mid-April 2021, all mothers-to-be have been offered the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus jab in line with their age group.
According to NHS England, more than 55,000 pregnant women across the UK have also received at least one dose of the vaccine, with no safety concerns.