Fresh warning to pregnant women to get Covid vaccine after dozens of deaths

Fresh warning to pregnant women to get Covid vaccine after dozens of deaths

A fresh warning has been issued urging pregnant women to get the Covid vaccine, as new figures show dozens have died after contracting the virus.

Some 27 of the 45 women who died from Covid during 2019-21 were unvaccinated, according to a report from researchers at Oxford University’s MBRRACE team, which studies maternal and infant deaths and stillbirths. Two other women died after catching the flu who had not been vaccinated.

The report, published on Thursday, found that the women who died had either refused the Covid jab or there was no evidence of them having one, despite them being eligible and it being discussed with them.

The researchers said “confused messaging” around the vaccine could have been to blame. They warned further deaths were possible unless more was done to educate women.

They said: “The confused messaging due to lack of research evidence and consequent widespread vaccine hesitancy amongst clinicians and pregnant and postpartum women, notably amongst those from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minority groups, has been well documented.

“These women’s deaths are evidence of the consequences. It is not clear, however, that plans are in place to prevent similar issues occurring in the future.”

According to the figures, the majority of women who died from Covid during 2020 and 2021 were from ethnic minority groups, reflecting the trend of high death rates amongst women from Black and Asian ethnic groups compared to white women.

Although the Covid jab was first rolled out in December 2020, advice initially advised against pregnant women getting a dose. That advice was changed in April 2021 when mothers were urged to get jabs.

In November 2021, The Independent revealed that 600 babies were born prematurely to unvaccinated mothers hospitalised by Covid from May 2020 to July 2021.

Cases cited in the report included an older woman from an ethnic minority background, who was admitted to hospital with a Covid-related illness in her third trimester of pregnancy four months after she became eligible for vaccination. She had an emergency caesarean but died a few weeks later.

Her records showed she had a flu jab but there was no record of Covid vaccines being discussed.

Another woman, who had a known respiratory disease, died despite being eligible for a jab in the early vaccination programme. She was advised to contact her GP but vaccination was not discussed until five months later. She contracted Covid and died shortly afterwards.

In a third case, an “extremely high-risk” pregnant woman was advised about the vaccine but was undecided about whether to get it. She died from Covid pneumonitis three months later.

Earlier this year, The Independent reported a warning from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health over the government’s failure to roll out a newly approved respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine ahead of winter.

There are three vaccinations available for pregnant women for pertussis, influenza and SARS-CoV-2 and more are likely to be made available for RSV but the researchers warned the message was still not getting across.

“It is essential that the recommended vaccines are available in or close to antenatal clinics to allow easy access and to communicate the message that vaccination is safe and recommended during pregnancy. Vaccination has a major role in preventing maternal and neonatal illness and is an integral part of good antenatal care,” the report said.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance says information on immunisations for flu, pertussis, and Covid should be discussed at women’s first antenatal appointment.