Since July, one in five Covid patients receiving treatment through a special lung-bypass machine were mothers-to-be who have not had their first jab.
Pregnant women have been treated with a therapy, called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), used only when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by Covid that a ventilator cannot maintain oxygen levels.
Out of all women between the ages of 16 and 49 on ECMO in intensive care, pregnant women make up almost a third (32 per cent) – up from just six per cent at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The NHS is encouraging pregnant women to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
England’s top midwife is reassuring women that the vaccine is safe and effective during pregnancy and is recommended by clinicians and charities.
Since vaccinations began in December 2020, almost every person who has received ECMO for Covid in the UK has been unvaccinated, NHS data shows.
Data from Public Health England showed that over 81,000 pregnant women have received the first dose of the life-saving Covid jab, and around 65,000 have received their second dose.
Health chiefs are now calling on all expectant mums to get vaccinated to protect them and their baby against coronavirus.
Chief midwifery officer for England, Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, said: “This is another stark reminder that the Covid-19 jab can keep you, your baby and your loved ones, safe and out of hospital. You can receive vaccination at any time in pregnancy, but the risks that unvaccinated pregnant women face of becoming severely unwell if they catch Covid-19 show exactly why we advise you to do so as soon as possible.”
Covid vaccination in pregnancy is considered safe and is recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians, Royal College of Midwives and the UK Tetralogy Service.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives have both recommended vaccination as one of the best defences for pregnant women against severe Covid-19 infection, while the independent JCVI confirms the jab has been shown to be effective and safe for women carrying a baby.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We are urgently calling for all pregnant women to come forward for their vaccinations. There is robust evidence showing that the vaccine is the most effective way to protect both mother and baby against the possibility of severe illness from Covid-19. The disproportionate number of unvaccinated pregnant women in intensive care demonstrates that there is a significant risk of severe illness from Covid-19 in pregnancy.
“We do understand women’s concerns about having the vaccine in pregnancy, and we want to reassure women that there is no link between having the vaccine and an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth.”
Pregnant women were first offered the vaccine in December 2020, if they were health or care workers or in an at risk group. Since April 2021, pregnant women have been offered the vaccine as part of the standard age-based rollout of the vaccination programme. The NHS has arranged for the vaccine for expectant mums to be at a number of convenient local locations, including at some antenatal clinics, and pregnant women are encouraged to speak to their GP or midwife if they have questions about getting the jab.
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