Pregnant women should be offered a Covid-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group, says advice issued at the end of last week by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
There have been no specific safety concerns identified with any brand of coronavirus vaccines in relation to pregnancy, says the JCVI. Real-world data from the United States shows that around 90,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated, mainly with mRNA vaccines including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, without any safety concerns being raised.
Based on this data, JCVI advises that it’s preferable for pregnant women in the UK to be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines where available. There is no evidence to suggest that other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women, but more research is needed.
This follows advice earlier in April that, as a precaution following reports of rare incidents of blood clots, it is preferable for people under the age of 30 with no underlying health conditions to be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine where possible.
Though uncommon, severe illness due to Covid-19 is more likely in later pregnancy. Pregnant women who do get a symptomatic Covid infection are two to three times more likely to give birth to their baby prematurely.
The greatest risk factor for severe outcomes from Covid-19 is age, which is why pregnant women should be invited for vaccination along with their age or clinical risk group.
Women who are planning pregnancy, are in the immediate postpartum, or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine, depending on their age and clinical risk group.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair for JCVI, said: “We encourage pregnant women to discuss the risks and benefits with their clinician – those at increased risk of severe outcomes from Covid-19 are encouraged to promptly take up the offer of vaccination when offered.”
Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, backs up the advice from the JCVI. “Vaccination offers pregnant women the best protection from Covid-19, which can be serious in some women. We believe it should be a woman’s choice whether to have the vaccine or not after considering the benefits and risks.”