A Conservative MP has been criticised after repeating a debunked claim that mRNA vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen made the unsubstantiated claim while criticising the health regulator's decision to authorise a COVID-19 vaccine for children aged six months to four years old.
The NHS, The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and The British Fertility Society all support pregnant women getting COVID-19 vaccines and say they are "strongly recommended in pregnancy".
During prime minister's questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, Bridgen made a series of misleading arguments about coronavirus jabs, including questioning their safety.
Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, said: “Given that mRNA vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, would my right honourable friend overturn the big pharma-funded MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency)’s recent recommendation that these experimental vaccines are administered to children as young as six months of age?”
Fact-checking organisation Full Fact has previously debunked the claim vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women and pointed to statements made by several health bodies.
The NHS said: “It's strongly recommended that you get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect you and your baby."
It added: “It's safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you are breastfeeding.”
The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists said: “COVID-19 vaccines are strongly recommended in pregnancy.
"Vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies, including admission of the woman to intensive care and premature birth of the baby.”
The British Fertility Society added: “In the UK, pregnant women are advised to have the COVID-19 vaccine, preferably the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines.
"There is no reason to believe that any of the COVID-19 vaccines would be harmful in pregnancy.”
Viki Male, an immunologist working on pregnancy at Imperial College, suggested Bridgen may have fallen for “misinformation” circulating in August.
She said pregnancy continued to be a priority condition for COVID vaccination – or a boost in those already vaccinated.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak also said he believed COVID vaccines were safe and effective in response to Bridgen’s question.
He replied: “But no vaccine, COVID or otherwise, will be approved unless it meets the UK regulator standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
“We have an independent body that JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) determines which age groups the vaccine is recommended for use in and as part of the vaccination programme.
“And, of course, the ultimate decision will lie with parents.”
Government figures from May showed almost six in 10 women giving birth in January 2022 (59.5%) had received at least one dose of the vaccine, up from 53.7% in December 2021 and 48.7% in November 2021.
Over half (50.6%) had received two doses of the vaccine in January, up from 43.3% in December 2021 and 38.4% in November 2021.