New plea for pregnant women to have Covid vaccine amid Omicron spread

·2-min read
Pregnant woman are being urged to get vaccinated (PA Wire)
Pregnant woman are being urged to get vaccinated (PA Wire)

Mothers-to-be were on Thusday urged to protect themselves and their babies by getting fully vaccinated before the third trimester of their pregnancy.

A third of pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid needed respiratory support and one in five had to have their baby delivered early to help them fight the virus, latest figures show.

There are concerns that the number of pregnant women needing hospital care has increased due to Omicron being more infectious.

It came as research from Scotland found the mortality rate for women who gave birth within 28 days of a Covid diagnosis was four times higher than normal, and that severe complications from Covid in pregnancy were “significantly” more common in unvaccinated women.

Pregnant women are not more susceptible to Covid infection than other women of a similar age but have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill.

Only about a third of pregnant women are vaccinated, compared with about 77 per cent of women aged 18-44.

Of the 230 pregnant women admitted to critical care in the UK between May and October, 97.9 per cent were unvaccinated, and 17 of the women and four babies died from Covid over the period.

Professor Lucy Chappell, chief scientific adviser at the Department of Health and a consultant obstetrician at St Thomas’ hospital, said she was optimistic that uptake would improve because of an increasing amount of data showing vaccines were safe in pregnancy.

She told the Standard: “We’ve got a teachable moment, a chance to say, ‘The right time is now to go and get your vaccine.’ We have got an opportunity to change hearts and minds here.

“A different way of putting it to pregnant women is that you can protect yourself and your baby by getting vaccinated.”

She compared the Covid jab with the whooping cough vaccine given to pregnant women to protect their baby in the first weeks of life.

Covid can typically affect women more severely after 26 weeks into their pregnancy.

During the Delta wave, concerns grew about stillbirths and neonatal deaths, though both remain very rare. “For Omicron, the data is still very, very early,”

Professor Chappell said. “There is discussion going on about what the impact of Omicron is in children, including in neonates.

“If you have a sick, pregnant mum, we will often make a decision to deliver her to improve her oxygenation [and] get more oxygen into her lungs.

“Primarily we plan birth for the mum but we are seeing more concerns about the baby as well.

“We would really like women to be protected by 24-26 weeks, because we know the risk of complications goes up.

“If a pregnant woman hasn’t been vaccinated, I say: ‘You can just go out the door and turn left towards the vaccination tent’.

“We are trying to get the message across that this is a positive thing you can do for you and your baby.”

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