Vaccination provides the best protection against COVID-19 in pregnancy, say experts
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) are urging women to talk to a health professional about the COVID-19 vaccine after a survey found the majority of pregnant women in the UK declined the vaccine when they were offered it.
A survey of 1,300 pregnant women, conducted on social media between the 17 May and 28 May 2021, found:
- Of those who had been offered the vaccine (844 pregnant women), 42% had accepted the vaccine and 58% declined the vaccine.
- Of those who have not yet been offered the vaccine (502 pregnant women):
- 40% definitely or probably would accept the vaccine
- 41% definitely or probably would not accept the vaccine
- 18% were undecided
The main reasons why women said they had declined the vaccine included because they were worried that it would harm the baby (65%) and because they were waiting on more information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy (57%).
On 16 April, the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced it would be offering pregnant women the COVID-19 vaccine, in line with the vaccine roll out plan for the UK. The decision was based on robust real-world data from the US – where around 120,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated mainly with mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – and no safety concerns have been raised.
Research has shown that pregnant women, particularly those in their third trimester, are at increased risk of becoming severely unwell if they get COVID-19 and, if this happens, it’s twice as likely that their baby will be born early, exposing the baby to the risk of prematurity. A recent UK study by the National Maternal and Perinatal Audit also found that pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 in England at the time of birth had higher rates of stillbirth; however, the actual increases remain low.
Commenting on the survey findings, Dr Pat O’Brien, consultant obstetrician and Vice President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We understand this is a very challenging time for those who are pregnant as they don’t only have themselves to think about but also their baby, but we want to reassure them that vaccination in pregnancy is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19, which can be more serious in pregnant women, particularly in their third trimester.”
“One of the barriers pregnant women have told us they’ve faced when making a decision has been whether they are able to discuss the vaccine with a healthcare professional. It is critical that all healthcare professionals feel confident discussing the options with those who are pregnant so they can make an informed choice based on their individual circumstances.
“We know this can make a huge difference to women when weighing up the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Dr Mary-Ross-Davie, Director for Professional Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Having the COViD-19 vaccine will help significantly to protect you and your baby from the virus, the effects of which can be very serious. There is a lot of information and misinformation around about the vaccine and I really do understand why you may be holding back from getting the jab. Please do speak to your midwife or doctor about it to get the facts and not the rumours so that you can make the decision about this that is right for you.”
Katie from Canterbury in Kent was pregnant when she received the COVID-19 vaccine, she said: "I’m a type one diabetic and received my first COVID-19 vaccine when I was 34 weeks pregnant. I delivered a very healthy, happy baby 4 weeks later and suffered only with minor flu symptoms from the vaccine.
“Although the vaccine does have an ‘unknown’ element about it, what's also unknown are the long term effects on women and their babies of catching and recovering from COVID-19. So the benefits and risks were equal in my view.
"I'm very pleased I had the vaccine as it did provide me with protection against COVID-19."
The RCM and the RCOG have developed a decision aid for pregnant women which is on their websites.
For media enquiries and interviews please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)7986 183167 or email [email protected]. To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].
Notes to Editor
The survey of 1,300 pregnant women, conducted on social media between the 17 May and 28 May 2021. Full results are available from the RCOG press office.
The RCOG/RCM decision aid for pregnant women offered a COVID vaccination is available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/2021-02-24-combined-info-sheet-and-decision-aid.pdf .
The RCOG has developed a range of information on our website for healthcare professionals and pregnant women eligible for COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy www.rcog.org.uk/covid-vaccine.
The RCOG is a medical charity that champions the provision of high-quality 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.
The 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.