Pregnant woman calls for clarity and reassurance around Covid vaccine

A soon-to-be mum from the Rhondda is calling for greater clarity and reassurance for pregnant women around the Covid vaccine.

Lydia Stephens, who is 30 weeks pregnant, says messaging around the vaccine for women in her position has been mixed and confusing.

She told ITV News she has had to rely on doing her own research rather than getting advice from health professionals.

She said: "I think it's a really, really difficult decision for pregnant women to make. Half of the blame for the low take up for pregnant women lies in the public messaging.

"As much as it is a woman's decision, we need to be confident that that decision has been really well informed and I think at this stage it hasn't been.

"We trust health professionals and we trust public messaging and we need that to counter the online fake news that's coming out about the vaccine and how it could potentially affect pregnant women. I don't think there's been enough of an information campaign around it."

Lydia decided to have the vaccine and is now urging other pregnant women to consider doing the same.

"Knowing that I've had both my vaccines puts my mind at ease," she said.

"I was anxious about catching coronavirus as I approached my due date. Now I know my baby is safe too and hopefully it's got some antibodies from me having the vaccine as well".

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "We would encourage all expectant mothers to have the Covid vaccine to help protect them and their families. The Pfizer vaccine is being offered to all pregnant women and has been classed as safe and effective by the regulator, the MHRA.

"Coronavirus poses a significant risk to pregnant women, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus."

  • What is the official advice for pregnant women?

The JCVI, who have been advising the government on immunisation, updated their guidance in April 2021.

The advice is that pregnant women should be offered the Covid-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, based on age and clinical risk.

  • Is it safe for pregnant women to have the vaccine?

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 Chair for JCVI said: "There have been no specific safety concerns from any brand of COVID-19 vaccines in relation to pregnancy."

Data shows that vaccines are effective in protecting people from serious illness from the virus. Severe illness due to Covid-19 is more likely in later pregnancy with women who are showing symptoms, two or three times more likely to give birth to their baby prematurely.

However, the JCVI are encouraging pregnant women to discuss the risks and benefits with their clinician.

Public Health Wales and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have produced a pregnancy COVID-19 vaccine decision making tool and you can also talk to your vaccinator or a healthcare professional about the jab if you have any concerns.

  • How many pregnant women have had the vaccine in Wales?

Leading up to 22 July, figures show that around 1,677 pregnant women in Wales have had their coronavirus vaccine - although this figure is likely to be an underestimate.

Data also shows that 99% of pregnant women who've been admitted to hospital with Covid-19 have been unvaccinated.

Public Health Wales is now encouraging pregnant women to have the Covid vaccine to "protect themselves and their unborn baby".

Dr Richard Roberts, head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said the risk to pregnant women is "generally low" but they are also more likely to need intensive care if they contract Covid-19.

He added: "Many of these vaccines also protect their babies from infection. These vaccines are non-‘live’ vaccines, which are considered by experts to be safe in pregnancy and when breast feeding.

"If a pregnant woman has already started vaccination she should have her second dose with the same vaccine. You can receive the vaccine in all stages of pregnancy and women planning a pregnancy do not need to delay their vaccination or pregnancy."

  • Are there any studies on vaccinating pregnant women?

Real-world data from the United States shows that around 90,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated, mainly with mRNA vaccines including Pfizer and Moderna, without any safety concerns being raised.

Based on this data, the JCVI advises that it’s preferable for pregnant women in the UK to be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines where available. There is no evidence to suggest that other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women, but more research is neededA new study has also been launched in England to examine the best dose interval for pregnant women. The study will provide clinical trial data on the immune response to vaccination at different dose intervals - either 4 to 6 weeks or 8 to 12 weeks with the hope of telling us more about how the vaccine works to protect pregnant mothers and their babies against Covid-19.

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