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Pregnant women 'afterthought' in Covid jab rollout

Pregnant women have been an "afterthought" during the coronavirus pandemic and some of their deaths were "preventable", a leading scientist has told Newsnight.

Data shows there have been at least 40 maternal deaths from Covid in the UK. Almost all were unvaccinated and more than half happened after pregnant women were advised to take-up the vaccine.

The regulator says vaccines during pregnancy are "safe".

Professor Marian Knight, who investigates every maternal death in the UK, said lifesaving messaging is still "struggling" to reach pregnant women, a year on since all of them were advised to get vaccinated.

Professor Knight said: "This has perhaps been the first year where my job has made me cry because that was a preventable situation."

During the first months of the vaccine rollout, only pregnant health or care workers or those in at-risk groups were advised by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to "consider" the jab due to a "lack of evidence".

In April 2021, the advice was updated to cover all pregnant women after real-world data raised no safety concerns.

By December 2021, a year after the rollout began, pregnant women were deemed to be more at risk of falling seriously ill from Covid and were put on the priority list for jabs.

Professor Knight, the maternal lead for pregnancy monitoring group MBRRACE-UK, said changing initial advice wasn't helpful, but stresses the JCVI had little choice because pregnant women were not included in Covid vaccine trials.

"It's a complicated message," she said. "The message 'don't get vaccinated because we haven't got any information' is very subtly different from 'don't get vaccinated because it's not safe'. You may think, 'I can't get vaccinated because I'm pregnant, it must not be safe'. Whereas actually we don't yet have enough information."

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Source: BBC News, 20 April 2022


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