Covid: Pregnant women in Wales urged to get 'safe and highly effective' vaccine

Pregnant women in Wales are being urged to get a Covid vaccine amid growing evidence they are at a higher risk of severe illness and hospital admission from the virus.

Public Health Wales has launched a fresh campaign to encourage pregnant women to get the jab and dispel the "misinformation" surrounding vaccine safety.

Pregnant women are not thought to be any more or less likely to contract the virus but evidence suggests they are more at risk when compared to other women.

Conditions such as pre-eclampsia, pre-term birth and stillbirth are twice as likely in pregnant women with coronavirus compared to pregnant women without.

Risks increase in the third trimester and for women with underlying health conditions.

Dr Christopher Johnson, Consultant Epidemiologist and Interim Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme for Public Health Wales, said: “Vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing Coronavirus and reducing risks to pregnant women and their babies.

“In America 160,000 pregnant women have had the Coronavirus vaccine, and here in Wales, Scotland and England 100,000 pregnant women have had the Coronavirus vaccine. No adverse effects on pregnancy have been identified as a result of having the vaccine while pregnant. The NHS monitors the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in pregnancy and we will continue to do so.

“There has been a lot of misinformation around the safety of the vaccines in pregnancy. However, research involving more than 40,000 pregnant women shows having the Coronavirus vaccine does not increase the risk of miscarriage, pre-term birth or stillbirth.

“However, catching Coronavirus while pregnant means you’re twice as likely to develop complications like pre-eclampsia, pre-term birth and stillbirth. Although the risks involved are generally quite low, the science shows it is safer to have the vaccine than not have it.”

Data in England shows almost a fifth of the most critically ill coronavirus patients in recent months were unvaccinated pregnant women.

Between July 1 and September 30, 17% of Covid patients receiving treatment through a special lung-bypass machine were mothers-to-be who had not had their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Chief Nursing Officer for Wales, Sue Tranka, said: “I want to reassure expectant mothers that the Coronavirus vaccine is based on science that has been used safely on pregnant women for many years, including vaccines already administered during pregnancy like whooping cough and the flu vaccine. The vaccine used is not a live vaccine, so cannot give you the virus.

“The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives both recommend vaccination as one of the best defenses against severe infection.

“We are seeing an increased number of unvaccinated pregnant women in hospital seriously ill with Coronavirus. The vaccine can help protect mums and babies from avoidable harm and can be given at any time during pregnancy. I would encourage people to take the vaccine when offered.”

What are the risks from Covid during pregnancy?

Two-thirds of women who test positive for COVID-19 in pregnancy have no symptoms at all.

However, they are more likely to be admitted to hospital or have a severe illness, especially those with underlying medical conditions.

Women are most at risk during the later stages of pregnancy and those who become seriously unwell with Covid are more likely to have complications with their baby.

More information on coronavirus vaccine during pregnancy is available on the Public Health Wales website.