Only last week, the Government advised that pregnant women should be given Covid vaccines, although preferably the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine rather than AstraZeneca because there was more observational data available about the effect of the first two thanks to the vaccine roll out in America. Now, an Oxford Professor of Foetal Medicine has said that the vaccination of mothers-to-be should be prioritised so they don’t have to wait until the vaccine becomes available to people in their age group, such are the risks of COVID-19 for mothers-to-be and their unborn children. The Mail on Sunday has the story.
Pregnant women should be fast-tracked for Covid jabs because the disease greatly increases the risk of health problems for mums-to-be, a leading medic has said.
A study led by a top Oxford expert found that the virus raises the risk of serious maternal complications by more than 50%, including a fivefold risk of mothers needing intensive care.
It doubles the risk of premature birth and newborn illness and also significantly raises the chance of the mother dying, according to a study of more than 2,000 expectant women.
The call for pregnant women to be put at the front of the queue differs from guidelines by the U.K.’s vaccine advisers, who say mums-to-be should be offered a jab when other people their age get one.
Until now, only pregnant women with underlying health conditions or those with high risk of exposure to the virus were eligible.
The latest study was led by Oxford University’s Professor of Foetal Medicine Aris Papageorghiou, who said: “Fortunately, there were very few maternal deaths [in the study]; nevertheless, the risk of dying during pregnancy and in the postnatal period was over 20 times higher in women with Covid than in the non-infected pregnant women.”
The findings show that of some 1,400 pregnant women without Covid, one died. But in 700 pregnant women with Covid, 11 died – with the majority said to be virus-related. Professor Papageorghiou added: “Our study unequivocally shows that women who are pregnant and become infected with Covid have much worse [health] outcomes than their counterparts not infected.”
He added: “What is often missed is that we are talking here about two individuals, the mother and the child. Covid in a pregnant woman increases complications that can lead to premature birth, which is the number one contributor to newborn death and long-term disability.”
His “personal opinion” was that pregnant women should now be prioritised for Covid vaccination, given that older age groups have already received their first jab. He said: “I believe pregnant women should constitute a high-risk group by virtue of their pregnancy.”
In most areas the NHS is now vaccinating 45-to-49 year-olds. Health bosses insist they will not deviate from the plan of working down through five-year age bands, meaning most pregnant women will have to wait.
Initially, the Government – acting on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – said the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should be given to pregnant women “where available” but that the AstraZeneca vaccine could also be administered. This was in spite of the JCVI’s own admission that “more research is needed” on the AZ vaccine because pregnant women were not included in the vaccine trials. Earlier this week, however, NHS England told GPs at sites that are only administering the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine to cancel all appointments for pregnant women and direct them to sites where alternative vaccines are available.
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