More pregnant women are getting Covid jab but officials concerned that uptake in deprived areas is still low

Vaccination rates among women giving birth have almost doubled according to the most recent figures, but health officials remain concerned that uptake in deprived areas remains low.

The proportion of women who gave birth with at least one jab dose rose from 22.5 per cent in August 2021 to 41.3 per cent in October 2021, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found.

Health experts have urged pregnant women to come forward for the vaccine showing the risk of severe illness with Covid is higher for unvaccinated people.

Out of 235 pregnant women admitted to intensive care with Covid between January and September 2021, none had received two vaccine doses, figures from the University of Oxford show.

In October 2021, 45,752 women gave birth, with 18,911 having had at least one jab and 13,743 double jabbed, leaving 26,637 (58.2 per cent) unvaccinated at delivery.

Black women and women living in the most deprived areas of England remain least likely to have been vaccinated in pregnancy, the UKHSA figures showed.

Of the 33,012 women from the most deprived areas who gave birth from August to October 2021, 26,977 (81.7 per cent) were unvaccinated when giving birth. In the least deprived areas, of 22,394 women who gave birth in the same period, 11,717 (52.3 per cent) were unvaccinated.

From August to October 2021, 6,265 women of black ethnicity gave birth, with just 834 (13.3 per cent) having had one dose and 429 (6.8 per cent) double jabbed, leaving 5,431 (86.7 per cent) unvaccinated at delivery.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We know that pregnant women are more vulnerable of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19, which can lead to an increased risk of giving birth prematurely, and stillbirth.

“We have high-quality evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine is the best way to protect both pregnant women and their babies against Covid-19.

“We remain concerned that those living in the most deprived areas of England and women of Black ethnicity were the least likely to be vaccinated before giving birth, and we continue to advocate for concerted efforts to support these women to feel more confident about having the vaccine.”

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care and a consultant obstetrician, said the results should be “hugely reassuring” for other women thinking about getting the jab.

Professor Chappell said: “The data also show that outcomes for babies continue to be reassuringly similar for vaccinated pregnant women compared to unvaccinated pregnant women.

“The vaccines are the best possible way for a pregnant women to protect herself and her baby – we urge pregnant women to get their vaccine, whether it’s their first dose, second dose, or booster, as soon as you can.”

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A study in Scotland this month found that 98 per cent of pregnant women needing critical care in hospital as well as all baby deaths recorded occurred in those who were unvaccinated.

It comes after experts said women have died and babies been born prematurely due to “mixed” and “vague” Government messaging on vaccines during pregnancy.

The UKHSA figures showed the proportion of pregnant women who had received one or more doses having premature births was 5.97 per cent compared to 5.88 per cent that weren’t jabbed.

But rates of very and extremely premature births were significantly lower in women who were vaccinated in pregnancy compared to those who were not.

For pregnant women who had one or more jab the proportion with premature births was 1.47 per cent compared to 1.72 per cent of unvaccinated women.

The rate of extremely premature births among women who had had one more more dose was 0.89 per in pregnancy compared to 1.21 per cent in those who had not.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA, said: “There is growing evidence indicating that if you are pregnant, you are at increased risk of serious illness from Covid-19, especially in late pregnancy.

“We know that the Covid-19 vaccines used in the UK are highly effective at protecting against hospitalisation and our ongoing monitoring of the vaccine programme continues to provide reassuring evidence on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines in pregnant women.

“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.”

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