Pregnant women have been added as a Covid clinical risk group, making them a priority for vaccination.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has added the group to priority group 6 for vaccination.
It said the key priority was to ensure a higher take up of the first and second dose of vaccine, as this has been low in pregnant women.
It comes as data suggested a rise in maternal deaths of 50% while the Delta strain of the virus was dominant in the UK, JCVI said.
According to data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS) and the University of Oxford’s MBRRACE-UK study, between 16 May and 31 October:
- There were 5.4 maternal deaths from Covid per 100,000 live births (usual maternal mortality ratio in UK is around 9/100,000)
- 1,436 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with symptomatic Covid – 96% were unvaccinated
- 230 pregnant women were admitted to intensive care with Covid – 98% were unvaccinated
- 17 women died – at least 88% were unvaccinated
- four babies died with Covid-19 as the main cause of death
The news comes as GPs and other healthcare professionals have already been urged to advise of the benefits of Covid vaccination at every contact with pregnant women, as well as those trying to have a baby.
Data from the UK Health Security Agency have showed that Covid vaccination is safe and effective in pregnancy.
Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: ‘The serious risks posed to women who become infected with Covid-19 during pregnancy have become increasingly clear.
‘We know that the vaccines used in the UK Covid-19 vaccination programme have been highly effective in preventing serious complications and those recommended for pregnant women have a good safety record.
‘I would urge all pregnant women to come forward and get their vaccine without delay. This is the best way to protect you and your baby.’
JCVI Covid immunisations chair Professor Wei Shen Lim said: ‘There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines used in pregnancy increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirths, congenital abnormalities or birth complications. Having a UK approved Covid-19 vaccine is safer than having Covid-19 itself.
‘Women who are pregnant are strongly encouraged to have a first, second or booster vaccine dose as appropriate in order to better protect yourself and your baby from any serious consequences from Covid-19.’
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In full: Covid vaccination priority groups
- Residents in a care home for older adults, staff working in care homes for older adults
- All those 80 years of age and over, frontline health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over, individuals aged 16 to 69 in a high risk group
- All those 65 years of age and over
- Adults aged 16 to 65 years in an at-risk group
- All those 60 years of age and over
- All those 55 years of age and over
- All those 50 years of age and over
This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.