COVID vaccine and pregnancy

By Prof Viv Bennett, Chief Nurse, Public Health England on 16 April 2021 Covid-19 Public Health England

Firstly, I want to pay tribute to everyone working in midwifery teams throughout the pandemic. The mothers, partners and babies born during Covid have needed additional support to help deal with impact of the pandemic and you have provided vital to support to enable the best birthing experience possible in this difficult times.

I know that many of you will have been asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine during routine check-ups and conversations.

Today the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) has advised that all pregnant women should be offered the vaccine in order of age, alongside the rest of the population.

The JCVI has advised a preference for pregnant women to be offered either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine, which are both mRNA vaccines.

As you may be aware, this is a type of vaccine which includes part of the virus’ genetic code and teaches the body how replicate it, so our immune system can learn how to fight it off.

There isn’t currently much UK data on Covid vaccination in pregnancy. But in America, tens of thousands of pregnant women have been vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna as these are the main vaccines used there, and everything we have seen suggests these vaccines are very safe for both mother and baby.

There is nothing to suggest other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women and the JCVI will continue to look at the evidence as it emerges.

Pregnant women will be called for the vaccine depending on how old they are, in the same way as everyone else. They may have been called earlier if they have an underlying health condition or are a health or social care worker.

Please do make sure to communicate the JCVI advice to them and encourage them to ask any questions or talk about concerns.

A really important message is that it’s unlikely for pregnant women to become severely ill from COVID-19 during pregnancy. Most women who contract COVID-19 don’t experience any symptoms.

However, while it is uncommon, there is a higher likelihood of complications from COVID-19 during the late stages of pregnancy if women become infected.

That is why we’re urging pregnant women to take the vaccine when they are offered it.

We also get lots of questions from women that are breastfeeding or couples that are trying to conceive.

The JCVI advice is that women who are breastfeeding and women who are planning a pregnancy should be offered any suitable COVID-19 vaccine, alongside everyone else as part of the age-based vaccination programme.

There is also currently no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility.

For more information about the vaccine and the evidence behind the advice, you can find out more in the Green Book which is available here.