NHS advice on Covid vaccines for pregnant women has not changed, Health Secretary insists
Covid vaccine advice for pregnant women has not changed, health officials have insisted in response to false claims sweeping social media.
A Government safety document, which appeared to be updated this month, stated: ‘Sufficient reassurance of safe use of the vaccine in pregnant women cannot be provided at the present time’.
Prominent jab-hesitant zealots, including former footballer Matt Le Tissier, claimed new advice said the group ‘should not be taking’ the jabs.
But ministers have hit back at the claims, which were based on an old document that was submitted to the drug regulator by Pfizer.
A Department of Health spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The Government, clinical and independent advice has not changed.
Speaking on behalf of the Health Secretary Steve Barclay (pictured), a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) told MailOnline the advice on vaccinating pregnant women against Covid has not changed
Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysts estimate around 1.2million had the virus on any given day in England in the week ending August 16. Cases were down 15 per cent on the previous week
‘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 to encourage eligible women to get vaccinated, to protect themselves and their babies from Covid.’
The false information stemmed from a document originally published in December 2020.
The report contained a summary of data Pfizer sent to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to get it approved.
But the MHRA updated the documents on August 16 with new information on adults receiving a booster dose that is different the brand of vaccine they received for their first two jabs.
Social media users quickly spotted the section about pregnancy, which also stated: ‘Women who are breastfeeding should also not be vaccinated.’
The data was collected as of December 2020, before the vaccine was approved and had been tested on pregnant women. Expectant mothers were not included in initial trials, which is standard protocol for vaccines and other medicines.
Independent studies on more than 315,000 women have since shown that the Pfizer, and Moderna jabs are safe in pregnancy.
No increased risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, congenital abnormalities or health problems in babies has been found.
The overwhelming evidence prompted a change in advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in April last year.
Uptake has remained sluggish among expectant mothers, however.
This is despite data clearly suggesting that Covid in pregnancy can raise the risk of complications.
The MHRA insisted the new data, which isn’t in the Pfizer document, ‘supports the updated advice’ that encourages women to get vaccinated.
Dr Victoria Male, an immunologist at Imperial College London, attempted to debunk the rumours on social media prior to the Government’s response.
She said Pfizer has not added any new pregnancy advice since December 2020, which is ‘why it still says the same as it did back then’.
She tweeted: ‘If you are pregnant in the UK, the NHS strongly recommend that you get the Covid vaccine if you are not yet protected.
‘The advice has not changed!’
The JCVI advises that pregnant women should be offered two vaccine doses and a booster.
None of the vaccines contain live coronavirus and cannot infect pregnant women or their unborn baby in the womb.
An MHRA spokesperson said: ‘The text referred to in the social media posts comes from the Public Assessment Report (PAR) which summarises our assessment at the time of approval of the vaccine (December 2, 2020).
‘Since then significant new data has been generated (both non-clinical and post-authorisation “real world” data) which led to the updated advice that vaccines should be offered in those who are pregnant and breastfeeding.
‘For our latest advice, please see the Summary of Product Characteristics and our Yellow Card Covid-19 vaccine reporting which states that the vaccines are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.’
The truth about Covid vaccines and pregnancy: Should I get a jab if I’m expecting?
What is the latest advice on Covid vaccination and pregnancy?
Covid-19 vaccines are strongly recommended in pregnancy.
On December 16, 2021, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced that pregnant women are now considered a ‘vulnerable’ group in the vaccination programme.
It emphasised the urgency of them receiving COVID-19 vaccination and booster doses.
Are vaccines normally used in pregnancy?
Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding are already routinely and safely offered vaccines in pregnancy, for example to protect against influenza (flu) and whooping cough.
Many of these vaccines also protect their babies from infection.
These vaccines, like the COVID-19 vaccines, are non-‘live’ vaccines, which are generally considered safe in pregnancy.
Is vaccination safe for pregnant women and their babies?
Robust real-world data in the US — where over 200,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated mainly with mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna — have not raised any safety concerns.
Therefore, the JCVI advises that it is preferable for the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines to be offered to pregnant women in the UK, where available.
The UKHSA and Public Health Scotland have reported that well over 100,000 pregnant women have received a Covid vaccine in England and Scotland, with no serious adverse effects recorded.
Covid vaccines do not contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to a developing baby.
Studies of the vaccines in animals to look at the effects on pregnancy have shown no evidence that the vaccines cause harm to the pregnancy or to fertility
Can the vaccine boost immunity in babies?
Studies have shown that protective antibodies developed from vaccination can transfer from mother to baby across the placenta, and after birth through breast milk, helping with the baby’s immunity to Covid.
The degree of protection this provides to the baby is unknown at present and more research is needed.
Source: The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
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