The Covid-19 vaccination is available for certain groups of expectant mums who are considered to have a greater risk of severe illness from the virus, or whose job puts them at a higher risk of catching it.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have said that although there is not enough evidence to recommend the general use of Covid-19 vaccines during pregnancy, there are no known safety concerns RCOG (2020).
Some pregnant women may become very unwell if they catch Covid-19, especially towards the end of their pregnancy RCOG (2021). The JCVI therefore advised that certain groups of pregnant women, where the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks, should consider having the vaccination.
Who can have the vaccine?
The JCVI advise that pregnant women who are clinically extremely vulnerable should discuss having a Covid-19 vaccine during pregnancy. This is because their underlying condition puts them at a higher risk of experiencing serious complications of Covid-19 RCOG (2020).
They also advise that pregnant women who are frontline health or social care workers, including carers in residential homes, discuss the option of vaccination. This is because their risk of exposure to Covid-19 is higher.
Other groups being offered the vaccine are those at high risk of Covid-19 because of health and personal factors including age, BMI and underlying health conditions (including pregnant women in priority group 6). Expectant mums diagnosed with gestational diabetes are also eligible for vaccination. Ethnicity is also a factor, and if you are of Black or Asian ethnicity, or from another minority ethnic background, you are at higher risk of catching Covid-19. RCOG (2021)
This Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) info sheet gives guidance on which groups of pregnant women can have the vaccine at the moment. Remember, you will be contacted by the NHS if you are eligible for a vaccination – you don't have to do ask for it yourself. RCOG (2021)
A health professional will discuss the benefits and risks of vaccination in pregnancy on an individual basis, to help you make an informed decision.
Further information can be found on the RCOG website.
If you don't belong to any of these at-risk groups, the advice is to wait until you've had your baby before having the vaccine Tommy's (2021).
How do I arrange to have the vaccination?
If you are pregnant and at a very high risk of catching the infection, or you have clinical conditions putting you at high risk of suffering serious complications from Covid-19, you will be contacted about having the vaccine – you don't need to do anything yourself (RCOG 2021). You can then discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with your doctor or nurse GOV.UK (2020).
Will having the vaccine give me Covid-19?
The Covid-19 vaccines we use in the UK are not 'live' and so do not cause a Covid-19 infection in you or your baby. What's more, studies of the vaccine on pregnant animals haven't shown any signs that the vaccine harms the pregnancy or fertility. RCOG (2021)
Which vaccine will I have?
If you’re pregnant, you can have any of the three Covid-19 vaccinations (Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines) currently authorised for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) HIFN (2021).
What about reports of blood clots?
Up until the end of March 2021, over 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been given in the UK (to those who weren't pregnant). Of these, there have been 79 reports of serious thrombosis (blood clots) after the vaccination was given. This means about four people have experienced serious blood clots for every million does given. RCOG (2021)
The government has advised that people under 30 should be offered an alternative vaccine to the AstraZeneca vaccine, because of the benefit to risk ratio of that group. If you're over 30 and pregnant and don't want the AstraZeneca vaccine, you should be supported in your choice. RCOG (2021)
Pregnancy can make you more liable to blood clots, so you should discuss with your healthcare professional whether the benefits of a vaccination outweigh the risks. MHRA (2021)
What if I don't want the vaccine, will I lose my protection as an at-risk person?
You shouldn’t be put under any pressure to have the vaccine or not have the vaccine. If you chose not to have the vaccine, you should still continue be given the same protections for at-risk groups, such as being allowed to work in a different place HIFN (2021).
What if I have the vaccine then find out I'm pregnant?
If you’ve already had the vaccine then you find out you’re pregnant, don’t worry. It shouldn’t affect the success of the vaccine, and the risk to your baby is minimal. However, Public Health England guidance recommends that you then wait until after your baby is born before you have your second dose GOV.UK (2021).
Can I have the vaccine while I'm trying to get pregnant?
Yes, it's okay to have the vaccine if you're in one of the at-risk groups and are you're trying to get pregnant. There is no advice against trying to get pregnant after having the vaccine GOV.UK (2021).
I’ve read on a forum that I shouldn’t have the vaccine – is this true?
You may find the decision on whether or not to get vaccinated an emotional and difficult one to make. But be aware that many messages on online and other forums are based on individual opinion and not on scientific evidence.
Speak to a health professional about the vaccine to get up-to-date and reliable guidance. You may find this information sheet from the RCOG showing the benefits and risks of a Covid-19 vaccination while pregnant useful.
It's also worth bearing in mind that the vaccine has now been given to large numbers of people. Although there is still very little evidence for pregnant women, the information we have at the moment does not show any safety concerns or harm to pregnancy from the Covid-19 vaccine RCOG (2021).
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (updated 9 April 2021) https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/coronavirus-cov…
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (December 2020) https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/updated-advice-on-covid-19-vaccination-in-pregnancy-and-women-who-are-breastfeeding/
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists merged information sheet and decision aid: (Updated 12 April 2021) https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/2021-02-24-co…
GOV.UK COVID-19 vaccination: a guide for women of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding (January 2021) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-women-of-childbearing-age-currently-pregnant-planning-a-pregnancy-or-breastfeeding/covid-19-vaccination-a-guide-for-women-of-childbearing-age-pregnant-planning-a-pregnancy-or-breastfeeding
Hospital Infant Feeding Network (January 2021) https://www.hifn.org/covid-interim