Pregnant women targeted in Covid vaccine misinformation campaign

Covid vaccination advice for pregnant women has not changed, the Department of Health has confirmed after false reports on social media.

It comes ahead of the start of an autumn booster campaign to be rolled out to the over-50s and clinical at-risk groups, which includes pregnant women.

A post shared widely on Twitter stated that the Government had quietly removed approval for Covid-19 vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding women.

But the document referred to was from 2020 when the first vaccine was approved and out of date, health officials have clarified.

The misleading claim, including suggestions that the Government had done a U-turn on its advice, was picked up by several accounts with large followers and viewed thousands of times as well as being shared in multiple languages, a BBC investigation found.

Some of the confusion appears to have occurred around a timestamp on the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) website when a different part of the page was updated in August to include some more information on boosters.

At the time, some posters on social media had pointed out this was old advice.

The Twitter account that had stated the UK Government had changed its advice has since been suspended, the BBC said.

All pregnant women have been eligible for the Covid vaccine since 16 April 2021 based on a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). In December that year they were added to the clinical risk groups who should be prioritised, including for boosters.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘The government, clinical and independent advice has not changed – Covid vaccines are safe and highly effective both for pregnant women and for those who are breastfeeding.

‘This is backed by extensive real-world data, including global analysis outside of clinical trials and in healthcare settings.

‘We are doing everything we can – including working with the NHS itself, clinicians and partners – to encourage eligible women to get vaccinated, to protect themselves and their babies from Covid.

‘We have always followed the expert advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. We have recently accepted advice which advised pregnant women should be eligible for an autumn booster.’

The DHSC has reported that nearly two thirds of the pregnant women giving birth in February 2022 had received at least one dose of Covid vaccine.

An evaluation of pregnancy outcomes including preterm birth, low birthweight and stillbirth showed no safety concerns in pregnant women who had been vaccinated compared with those who had not been.