Covid: Pregnant women in Wales urged to get vaccine

By Jenny Rees
BBC Wales health correspondent

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Image caption,
Anna Davies says vaccine advice evolved when she was pregnant with Manon, now five months

Most pregnant women who go to intensive care with Covid are unvaccinated, a public health expert has warned.

A campaign has been launched in Wales urging pregnant women to get both vaccinations.

Public Health Wales has warned that complications such as pre-term birth, stillbirth and pre-eclampsia are twice as likely for those with coronavirus.

Dr Chris Johnson of PHW said there had been "a lot of misinformation" around vaccine safety in pregnancy.

Anna Davies, 36, a Welsh language manager at Gower College, said the advice had evolved during her pregnancy, so she was eight months pregnant when she was offered the vaccine in April.

"I was in a fairly unique position where towards the end the advice changed and I was told it was perfectly fine," she said.

'Absolutely a personal decision'

"But I felt I had come this far without the vaccine, I would be fine for another month, and would get the vaccine straight after giving birth.

"My main worry was that I would get ill from the vaccine - obviously being so close to being in labour, I wanted to be totally focused on that.

"It's absolutely a personal decision. If I had longer left in my pregnancy then I would think yes - because we don't know who will get ill from Covid, so it would probably be better to protect yourself."

Image caption,
Sarah Aubrey, midwifery lead at the University of South Wales, says pregnant women are given "signposting to the right information"

Sarah Aubrey, senior midwifery lecturer at the University of South Wales, works at a local vaccination centre at weekends, and said the number of pregnant women coming in for vaccination was starting to rise.

"When we as midwives are booking women very early on in pregnancy, they've usually had their first vaccine - pre-pregnancy - but now they're pregnant they're slightly reluctant to have their second vaccine.

"That's when we're signposting them to the right information and providing them with the up-to-date current evidence, to show that vaccinations in pregnancy are indeed safe.

Image caption,
Public Health Wales says the science shows it is safer for pregnant women to have the vaccine than not have it

"Recent statistics show that in the UK, between 1 February and 30 September there's been over 1,700 admissions to hospital of pregnant women symptomatic with Covid.

"Unfortunately out of those, 235 have been transferred to the intensive care unit and we're looking at a high percentage of those are being unvaccinated."

Dr Johnson said: "We know that the majority of women who are pregnant who end up on ICU are unvaccinated."

"Although the risks involved are generally quite low, the science shows it is safer to have the vaccine than not have it."

'Based on science'

He said research involving more than 40,000 pregnant women showed that having the vaccine did not increase the risk of miscarriage, pre-term birth or stillbirth.

Sue Tranka, the chief nursing officer for Wales, said: "I want to reassure expectant mothers that the coronavirus vaccine is based on science that has been used safely on pregnant women for many years, including vaccines already administered during pregnancy like whooping cough and the flu vaccine.

"The vaccine used is not a live vaccine, so cannot give you the virus.

"We are seeing an increased number of unvaccinated pregnant women in hospital seriously ill with coronavirus. The vaccine can help protect mums and babies from avoidable harm and can be given at any time during pregnancy."

What's the latest case rates?

Twelve further people have died with coronavirus in Wales and 2,635 new cases have been reported by Public Health Wales (PHW).

These deaths included eight in Cwm Taf Morgannwg and two each in Aneurin Bevan and Hywel Dda.

In the seven days up to 12 October, 4.7 people died each day with the virus on average.

Wales' case rate, along with other UK nations, have risen. PHW figures show 531.9 per 100,000 people have contracted the virus - up from 522.9 on Wednesday.

The positivity rate is also up slightly to 17.4% - it was 16.7% on Tuesday.

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