One in six critically ill Covid-19 patients in England are unvaccinated pregnant women, NHS England has announced. Of the 118 Covid-19 patients in England who received extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) between July and September, 20 of them were pregnant. ECMO is usually given to critically ill people who have not responded to going on a ventilator. Of the 20 pregnant women who received ECMO, just one had been vaccinated — though she had only received one dose.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has been advising that pregnant people should be offered Covid-19 vaccines since April.
So far, more than 81,000 pregnant women have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK., according to the NHS, but health officials are saying more needs to be done.
“We are urgently calling for all pregnant women to come forward for their vaccinations. There is robust evidence showing that the vaccine is the most effective way to protect both mother and baby against the possibility of severe illness from Covid-19. The disproportionate number of unvaccinated pregnant women in intensive care demonstrates that there is a significant risk of severe illness from Covid-19 in pregnancy,” said Dr. Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Initial evidence shows that pregnant people are at greater risk of contracting Covid and are currently taking up the vaccine at a lower rate than the rest of the population. The NHS England data also underlines the extra risks facing unvaccinated people. Of the 118 people who had EMCO, 107 had not been jabbed, four had only had one dose and only seven were fully immunised.
The recommendation to get vaccinated if you were pregnant was issued late (April 2021) and this may be the cause of some concerns. There has also been a targeted campaign from anti-vaxxers around pregnancy, fertility and vaccination.
Anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists claim Covid-19 vaccines are dangerous to unborn babies and hound organisations and individuals trying to correct misinformation.
Pregnant Then Screwed, a UK organization for maternity and pregnancy employment rights, began sharing data on Covid-19, vaccines, and pregnancy.
“The hate started before Christmas when we were campaigning for breastfeeding women to be able to have informed choice about taking the vaccine,” Joeli Brearley, founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed, told Insider.
“Breastfeeding and pregnancy is a really sensitive topic anyway, and if you talk about that online, it can often go really horribly wrong. Then you add in talking about a vaccine that people didn’t fully understand at this point — and it got really scary for our team.”
Anti-vaxxers posting on the Pregnant Then Screwed social media platforms repeatedly called the staff “baby killers” and accused them of wanting to poison pregnant women.
Over the last year the CQC have reported concerns on safety of around two fifths of maternity units due to staffing and culture. The Royal College of Midwives survey of staff last year showed 83% of respondents believe their maternity services do not have enough staff to operate safely. Staff are being redeployed from community services into emergency care leaving major gaps. Public health campaigns must be combined with expanded care in pregnancy.