Pregnant women at risk from NHS workers’ mixed messages over safety of jab

Some health professionals are telling pregnant women not to get the Covid vaccine, despite the NHS's recommendation that they do so. According to figures last week, one in six Covid patients who require life-saving treatment are not vaccinated.
However, messages to the Vaccines and Pregnancy helpline (launched on 20 August to assist pregnant women with information about the vaccine) suggest that some midwives advise against the jab.

One person said that she was initially interested in the vaccine but was then told by a midwife to not have it. One reported that I have been told I won't be allowed to have my second dose of the vaccine now that I am pregnant. This is due to the effect on ovulation, menstruation and fertility.

The Full Fact campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed and the organisation Full Fact jointly set up the helpline. Many people who contacted it complained about conflicting advice and others being pushed from one pillar to the next. One woman said that she was pregnant and confused about the vaccine. I spoke to my doctor, who advised me to speak to my GP. The GP suggested that you speak to your midwife. However, the midwife stated that they couldn't help me.

Claire Milne (Deputy Editor of Full Facts) explained that the helpline was set up to combat misinformation regarding the vaccine. She said: It is not right that so many pregnant women are left in fear for their safety, and the safety of their unborn babies.

There has been confusion around vaccine safety during pregnancy. It is important to have up-to-date information, especially when talking with healthcare professionals.

Rebecca Bottriell Adams of West London claimed that it took her four months of chasing, pleading, and the intervention by her MP to get double-jabbed. Photo by Andy Hall/The Observer

After a letter sent by NHS England to senior managers on 30 July, the latest concerns were raised. It advised that all healthcare professionals had a responsibility for encouraging pregnant women to be vaccinated.

The vaccine was first offered to pregnant women in December 2020 if they were healthcare workers, or members of an at-risk group. It has been recommended that pregnant woman be given the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines since April 2021.

Joeli Brearley, founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed, said mixed messages about vaccine safety left pregnant women scared about making the right choices. She stated: Although this is less common, we still hear of judgemental comments when pregnant women go to get their jabs. For example, this is at your risk or on you head. This is alarming.

Brearley said that pregnant women are being totally ignored. There are reports that vaccine centers are refusing to give second jabs to many people who need them. This is despite worrying data about the high number of pregnant women unvaccinated who are admitted to hospital with Covid.

Rebecca Bottriell Adams from West London had her AstraZeneca shot just before she became pregnant. She stated that she had experienced double-jabbing and it was a nightmare. After four months of pleading and chasing, I finally got my Pfizer shot thanks to the intervention of my local MP. My GP refused to change my second jab to Pfizer. I tried to get a response. After being turned down at one vaccine center, I went to another drop-in for pregnant ladies. The vaccinators did not show up.

The 33-year old, who is pregnant at 30 weeks, said: The problem with the rollout is that pregnant women were not prioritised at any point. This is absurd when you consider that they are more susceptible to serious illness if the virus is transmitted.

Gill Walton, chief executive of Royal College of Midwives said that the organization had worked hard to provide midwives with the most current guidance. She stated that the initial delay in providing information and advice to pregnant women as well as healthcare staff who delivered the vaccine caused confusion for staff and women. This is something that both the RCM and RCOG [Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists] have been pushing for since the beginning of the vaccination program. We would like to see a wider government campaign on the vaccine in pregnancy earlier to correct any misinformation.

Dr Jo Mountfield is a consultant obstetrician and vice-president of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. She said: It's very concerning to learn that some healthcare professionals still advise pregnant women not to get the Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine is safe during pregnancy and protects both mother and baby against serious illness from Covid-19. All pregnant women are encouraged to accept the Covid-19 booster vaccination (third dose), which is available six months after the second dose.

You can reach the Pregnancy and Vaccines Helpline by messaging +44 751 770995 via WhatsApp.

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