Less than a quarter of pregnant women in the UK have had a Covid vaccine, official data today.
A report by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed just 10,486 (22 per cent) of women who gave birth in August had been given a first dose.
Officials issued a desperate plea for pregnant women to come forward, citing stats showing that 98 per cent of expectant mothers in ICU are unjabbed.
Real-world data from the rollout of vaccines in Britain support other studies around the world that the vaccines are safe to give at any stage of pregnancy, the UKHSA said.
The UKHSA report found that there were not substantial differences in rates of stillbirths, rates of births of babies with low birthweight and the proportion of premature births between vaccinated women and unvaccinated women.
Officials said the data were especially reassuring given that the first pregnant women to be offered the vaccine were those with underlying health conditions who would be expected to be at a higher risk of complications.
It comes after reports of anti-vaxxers turning up at school gates telling teenage girls they would become infertile if they get jabbed.
Professor Chris Whitty urged mothers-to-be get jabbed as he shared ‘stark’ figures that just 33 vaccinated pregnant women were admitted to hospital with Covid between February and September. For comparison, 98 per cent of hospital admissions (1,681) were among unjabbed mothers-to-be. And just three infected pregnant women admitted to intensive care were vaccinated, compared to 232 infected unvaccinated women, he said
The new data for England published by the UKHSA covers the eight-month period between January and August this year.
It looked at 355,299 women who gave birth, of whom 24,759 had received at least one dose of Covid vaccine.
EU approves Pfizer’s Covid vaccine for five to 11-year-olds
Children as young as five are set to be given the Pfizer Covid vaccine in Europe after the EU’s drug regulator approved the company’s jab for the age group.
The move appears to be a direct response to the fourth wave sweeping across the continent and sending nations back into draconian lockdowns.
It is the first time the European Medicines Agency has cleared a Covid vaccine for use in children below the age of 11. Britain’s vaccine rollout remains unaffected by the move, with children having to be at least 12 to receive a shot in the UK.
The agency said it ‘recommended granting an extension of indication for the Covid vaccine Comirnaty to include use in children aged 5 to 11’.
Authorities in Austria — which is currently in lockdown and has the worst case rate in Europe — already began jabbing children in the age group before the EMA approval.
It comes after the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC) yesterday announced third vaccine booster doses should be dished out to all adults on the continent, in a dramatic U-turn.
The data found no woman who was fully vaccinated and pregnant was admitted to intensive care with Covid between February and the end of September.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at UKHSA said: ‘Every pregnant woman who has not yet been vaccinated should feel confident to go and get the jab, and that this will help to prevent the serious consequences of catching Covid in pregnancy.’
The UKHSA data found that vaccinated women had a stillbirth rate of 3.35 per 1,000, slightly lower than the rate of 3.60 per 1,000 in unvaccinated women.
The proportion of women giving birth prematurely was 6.51 per cent for vaccinated people, slightly higher than 5.99 per cent for unvaccinated women.
Professor Lucy Chappell, DHSC’s Chief Scientific Adviser and Honorary Consultant Obstetrician, said: ‘This pandemic has created a lot of fear and uncertainty for those who are thinking about pregnancy or expecting a baby, with Covid being very dangerous for pregnant women in particular.
‘It is therefore really important that they get their Covid vaccine — which has now protected hundreds of thousands of pregnant women around the world.
‘Today’s data are hugely reassuring and further shows the vaccines continue to be the best way pregnant women can keep themselves and their babies safe from this virus.’
The government is urging pregnant women who have not yet been vaccinated to get their shots.
Professor Chris Whitty last week urged mothers-to-be get jabbed as he shared ‘stark’ figures that showed just three infected pregnant women admitted to intensive care were vaccinated, compared to 232 infected unvaccinated women between February and September.
He told a Downing Street press conference that hospitalisations among unvaccinated pregnant women are ‘preventable’ and it is ‘clear the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks in every area’.
Professor Whitty said: ‘I would… like to pull out in particular the issue of women who are pregnant or intending to get pregnant.
‘And I would just like to give you some fairly stark facts about this because this is a major concern.
‘Based on academic data from February 1 to September 30… 1,714 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with Covid.
‘Of those, 1,681, which is to say 98 per cent, had not been vaccinated.
‘And if you go to those who are very severely ill in intensive care, of 235 women admitted to ICU, 232 of them – over 98 per cent – had not been vaccinated.
‘These are preventable admissions to ICU and there have been deaths.’
Q&A: Everything you need to know about Covid vaccines in pregnancy
Are vaccines safe for pregnant women?
There is no evidence the vaccines cause a different reaction in pregnant women.
Side effects reported by expectant mothers are similar to those seen among non-pregnant women.
Real-world data does, however, show mothers-to-be face a greater risk from Covid, especially if they get infected in their third trimester or have underlying health conditions.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists warn pregnant women are slightly more likely to give birth prematurely or suffer a stillbirth if they catch Covid.
And NHS chiefs last month revealed one in five Covid patients on ventilators were expectant mothers who had not been jabbed.
Could vaccines harm babies in the womb?
Experts have uncovered no proof that the jabs can harm babies in the womb — and insist there’s no reason to suspect they would either.
Covid vaccines do not contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to a developing baby.
Nor do they contain organisms that can multiply in the body, so they cannot infect an unborn baby in the womb.
Studies of the vaccines in animals to look at the effects on pregnancy have shown no evidence jabs cause harm.
Research from six studies involving 40,000 women show the vaccines don’t raise the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, stillbirth, or the baby being born smaller than usual or with birth defects.
Miscarriages occur in 20 to 25 per cent of pregnancies in the UK, while stillbirths happen in one in every 200 pregnancies in Britain.
Can vaccines make it harder to get pregnant?
There is also no evidence the Covid vaccines hamper a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.
The Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists and the British Fertility Society says there is ‘absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men’.
But some concerns have been raised because thousands of women have recorded disrupted period after getting the jabs.
By October 27, the UK medicines watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), had received 41,332 reports of menstrual cycle side effects after first, second or third doses of the Covid jabs.
Nearly 50million Covid vaccines had been administered to women up to the same date.
The side effects included heavier or lighter bleeding than usual, as well as more painful periods. But the MHRA said the changes are ‘transient in nature’ — meaning they are short-lived.
Period problems are very common — with up to a quarter of women of childbearing age reporting them at any one time — and are often triggered by stress.
Why were vaccines not initially offered to pregnant women?
Like other vaccines and medicines, clinical trials of the Covid jabs did not include pregnant women.
This meant the UK’s vaccine advisers, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), did not have enough evidence to recommend pregnant women should get vaccinated when jabs were initially rolled out last winter.
But real-world data from the US — where 90,000 pregnant were given doses of Pfizer or Moderna — did not reveal any safety concerns.
So the JCVI advised that these jabs should be offered in the UK.
And subsequent studies show the jabs were just as effective in pregnant women as those who were not pregnant.
Source: Daily Mail UK