The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has announced it will be offering pregnant women the COVID-19 vaccine, in line with the vaccine roll out plan for the UK.
This comes after the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) presented evidence to the JCVI on the impact of COVID-19 for pregnant women, leading the JCVI to recommend offering vaccination to all pregnant women in line with priority groups. This enables every pregnant woman to make an individual decision based on benefits and risks.
Professor Lucy Chappell, consultant obstetrician and COVID-19 vaccine lead for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“This announcement from the JCVI brings the UK into line with the US and other countries who have been offering the COVID-19 vaccine to pregnant women since December, and should provide reassurance to pregnant women, as well as those planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, that vaccination is an option for them.
“We are continuing to work with healthcare professionals so they are able to counsel pregnant women on the risks and benefits of having the COVID-19 vaccine based on their individual circumstances.
“We are also advocating for more data collection of pregnant women receiving the vaccine in the UK, and welcome the work that is going on to ensure that there is recording of pregnancy status in the national vaccination programme to enable linkage to outcomes.”
Up until this point, the COVID-19 vaccination has only been offered to pregnant women when their risk of exposure to the virus is high, such as health and social care workers, or if the woman has underlying conditions that place her at high risk of complications of COVID-19.
Clinical trials testing the vaccine in pregnant women are just starting, but robust real-world data from the US – where around 90,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated mainly with mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – have not raised any safety concerns. Therefore, the JCVI is advising that it is preferable for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines to be offered to pregnant women in the UK, where available.
Dr Mary Ross-Davie, Director for Professional Midwifery and COVID-19 vaccine lead at the Royal College of Midwives, said:
“This is a sensible step by the Committee and one we welcome. It empowers pregnant women to make their own decisions about whether or not to receive the vaccine. Ultimately it will be a woman’s choice and midwives and obstetricians will be there to support them to make an informed decision that is right for them.
“It is now vital that the national vaccination programme, GPs and maternity services are supported to develop systems and procedures that support women who wish to have the vaccine to have it as easily as possible. We need to ensure that those providing counselling and information to women about the vaccine in pregnancy have up to date accurate information and have enough time to talk through questions and concerns with women.”
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“We are grateful to the JCVI for taking into consideration our evidence and updating the guidance around the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy.
“Vaccination offers pregnant women the best protection from COVID-19, which can be serious in some women. We know pregnant women can get unwell with COVID-19; one in five pregnant women who become unwell and are admitted to hospital will have a premature birth.
“We believe it should be a woman’s choice whether to have the vaccine or not after considering the benefits and risks and would encourage pregnant women to discuss with a trusted source like their GP, obstetrician or midwife, or a healthcare professional in a vaccination centre.
“This move will empower all the pregnant women in the UK to make the decision that is right for them, at the same time that the non-pregnant population in their age group receive protection from COVID-19.”