Maternity Royal Colleges welcome prioritisation of pregnant women for COVID-19 vaccination
Urgent efforts must now be made to ensure that pregnant women are fast tracked when booking their COVID-19 vaccines.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have welcomed the decision from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that pregnant women should be considered a clinical risk group within the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
This is something the RCM and RCOG have been calling for as evidence shows that pregnant women are more at risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 if they are infected.
The announcement comes as new data from MBRRACE-UK showed that 17 pregnant women with COVID-19 died between May and the end of October this year, and four babies died from COVID-19. The data also found more than 1400 pregnant women were admitted to hospital between May and the end of October this year with around a sixth (16%) admitted to intensive care. Nearly 96% of these women were unvaccinated.
The RCM and RCOG have published policy statement, outlining key recommendations to ensure that pregnant women can easily access the COVID-19 vaccine, including a request for the vaccine to be made available within all antenatal clinics.
The recommendations include:
- The Government should ensure that there are no barriers of access to the vaccine, and should consider ways in which the current system can prioritise pregnant women.
- UK Governments need to set time-bound targets to rapidly increase uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnant women, which should match the uptake of the general population.
- A target should be set to reduce and eliminated the disparities in uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy by ethnic group and socioeconomic status.
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said:
“Today’s announcement is good news. The RCM together with the RCOG and other organisations have been calling for pregnant women to be prioritised in the vaccination and booster programme. What is crucial now is that women are able to access vaccination hubs or clinics close to where they are receiving their maternity care. We are aware of reports of pregnant women waiting for hours in queues at walk-in centres or even when they have appointments, and this is unacceptable. Providing clinics in or very near antenatal clinics, staffed by vaccination teams, is a great way to encourage uptake and will also ensure that midwives, already in short supply, aren’t taken away from their core work. It’s also vital that all vaccinators and vaccination centres are not only aware that pregnant women are recommended to be vaccinated and have the booster and pregnancy but are trained in supporting them through the process too.
“We know that the best way to protect pregnant women and their babies from COVID is through vaccination. That’s why the Government must take immediate action on the recommendations we have laid out with the RCOG to ensure that there are no barriers for women in accessing the vaccine.”
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said:
“We welcome the announcement from the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that recognises pregnant women are more vulnerable to severe illness should they get infected and will therefore be prioritised for vaccination. This is something we have been calling on the JCVI to introduce and we are pleased they have listened.
“It is vital that pregnant women can easily access the booster vaccine to ensure that a good level of protection against COVID-19 and the new variant is maintained.
“Women who do develop symptomatic COVID-19 have an increased risk of giving birth prematurely, and stillbirth. The latest data from UKHSA shows only a fifth of women who gave birth in August were vaccinated and we would strongly recommend that all pregnant women get vaccinated as soon as possible, as it’s the best way to protect themselves and their baby against COVID-19.
“We encourage the Government to consider all available options to ensure that pregnant women are given priority when booking their COVID-19 vaccines.”
Professor Marian Knight, Professor of Maternal and Child Population Health at the University of Oxford and chief investigator of the UKOSS national study of pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID-19, said:
“This new data clearly shows that outcomes of covid-19 for pregnant women and their babies are getting worse. However, it also shows the very strong protection that receiving a vaccination provides. With several hundred thousand pregnant women across the world having received a vaccine, it is clear that vaccination in pregnancy is safe. As infections increase, pregnant women can be reassured that getting a vaccine is the best way to protect them and their babies.”
Notes to Editors:
- Please see RCM guidance and support for midwives, maternity support workers and all maternity staff here COVID - Advice for healthcare professionals - RCM
- RCM advice for pregnant women can be viewed here: COVID - vaccines for pregnant women - RCM
- The RCOG and RCM full policy position can be seen: Increasing uptake of COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant women December 2021 (rcog.org.uk)
- Link to DHSC press release
- The UKHSA stats have been published in the Weekly Surveillance Reports (week 47)
- We have developed an extensive Q&A and decision aid for pregnant women and their families: https://www.rcog.org.uk/coronavirus-pregnancy
About the RCM
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website.
About the RCOG
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.