Latest statistics show that over 31,000 pregnant women (48%) in the Midlands have received the first dose of the life-saving COVID jab, and around 18,000 (29%) have received their second dose.
Since July, one in five COVID patients receiving treatment through a special lung-bypass machine were expectant mums who have not had their first jab, according to the NHS Midlands Region.
Pregnant women have been treated with a therapy, called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), used only when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by COVID that a ventilator cannot maintain oxygen levels.
Out of all women between the ages of 16 and 49 on ECMO in intensive care, pregnant women make up almost a third (32%) - up from just six per cent at the start of the pandemic, in March 2020.
Since vaccinations began in December 2020, almost every person who has received ECMO for COVID in the UK has been unvaccinated, NHS data shows.
Early on in the vaccination programme, the NHS says there was considerable misinformation and misunderstanding about the dangers of the Covid jabs to pregnant women on themselves and their child, as well as unfounded fears about effects on fertility based on the lack of knowledge and awareness about the jabs.
Janet Driver, Regional Chief Midwife at NHS England and NHS Improvement in the Midlands, said: “We are urgently calling for all pregnant women to come forward for their vaccinations. There is robust evidence showing that the vaccine is the most effective way to protect both mother and baby against the possibility of severe illness from COVID-19. The disproportionate number of unvaccinated pregnant women in intensive care demonstrates that there is a significant risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in pregnancy.
“We do understand women’s concerns about having the vaccine in pregnancy, and we want to reassure women that there is no link between having the vaccine and an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth.
“Pregnant women should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with their GP, obstetrician or midwife, or a healthcare professional in a vaccination centre. Women who are planning pregnancy, or have immediately given birth to their baby, or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine, depending on their age and clinical risk group.”
The NHS insists there is no evidence of any effects on fertility either.
COVID vaccination in pregnancy is considered safe and is recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians, Royal College of Midwives and the UK Tetralogy Service. Data from over 100,000 COVID vaccinations in pregnancy in England and Scotland, and a further 160,000 in the US, show there has been no subsequent harm to the foetus or infant.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives have both recommended vaccination as one of the best defences for pregnant women against severe COVID-19 infection, while the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) confirms the jab has been shown to be effective and safe for women carrying a baby.
Pregnant women were first offered the vaccine in December 2020, if they were health or care workers or in an at risk group. Since April 2021, pregnant women have been offered the vaccine as part of the standard age based rollout of the vaccination programme. The NHS has arranged for the vaccine to be there for expectant mums at a number of convenient local locations, including at some antenatal clinics, and pregnant women are encouraged to speak to their GP or midwife if they have questions about getting the jab.