All pregnant women are now eligible to get a Covid vaccine, according to updated guidance by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Previously, the committee had recommended that only pregnant women at high risk of exposure, such as frontline health workers, or those with certain underlying medical conditions be offered a jab.
Are Covid vaccines safe and effective in pregnant women?
All pregnant women will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, on the basis of fresh data collected on 90,000 pregnant women in the United States that showed the vaccines were safe, the JCVI said on Friday.
Until now, pregnant women – except those at high risk of contracting Covid or suffering from severe complications – were not routinely advised to get vaccinated because they were not included in initial clinical trials (although some women became pregnant after receiving their jab).
Crucially, though, there was no evidence to suggest that the vaccines could pose any harm to a pregnancy.
This month, following concerns of a rare blood clotting syndrome in a few recipients of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said that, given pregnancy is a risk factor for the development of blood clots, women should discuss with their healthcare professional whether the benefits of having the vaccine outweigh the risks for them. In parallel, the JCVI also changed its guidance to recommend that people under the age of 30 who are healthy and at low risk from Covid should, if possible, be offered a different Covid vaccine.
Now, given the latest US data, pregnant women in the UK can have the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) at any stage of pregnancy but have been advised to wait until after 12 weeks.
What is the risk of contracting the virus in pregnant women and are they more likely to suffer from severe Covid?
Pregnant women in the UK are no more likely to catch Covid than other groups, says the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).
On contracting the virus, most pregnant women experience mild symptoms, but some research has shown that they are at greater risk of becoming severely unwell, a concern also highlighted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Both the JCVI and CDC also say that pregnant women who get Covid-19 are more likely to give birth prematurely.
Should I take the vaccine if I’m trying to get pregnant?
There is no evidence to suggest that any of the vaccines can affect fertility, according to the JCVI.
Women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination, the JCVI advises, while getting vaccinated before pregnancy will help prevent Covid-19 infection and its potentially serious consequences.
If you’ve had one dose of the vaccine the RCOG suggests that you get your second dose before getting pregnant because, while the first dose is effective, protection may not last the duration of your pregnancy.
If you find out that you are pregnant after your first dose, RCOG says it is your choice to either have the second dose after the recommended interval, to wait until after 12 weeks of pregnancy (which are most crucial for the baby’s development) or defer until after pregnancy. Your decision should take into account personal circumstances: your risk of virus exposure and any underlying medical conditions.
Should breastfeeding women take the vaccine?
There is no known risk in giving available Covid vaccines to breastfeeding women, according to the JCVI.
In fact, there is no plausible mechanism by which any vaccine ingredient from the existing Covid vaccines could pass to your baby through breast milk, says RCOG, adding that women should therefore not stop breastfeeding in order to be vaccinated.