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Health & Fitness Pregnant women are struggling to get Covid vaccine – and those with health conditions are most anxious

17:55  07 may  2021
17:55  07 may  2021 Source:   msn.com

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Many pregnant women have been left struggling to get a Covid vaccine because clinics are unable to guarantee they will have the right brand of jab available.

Pregnant women are recommended to have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (Photo: Bogdankosanovic via Getty) © Provided by The i Pregnant women are recommended to have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (Photo: Bogdankosanovic via Getty)

A major study last month reported that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe in those who are expecting, prompting government advisors to recommend that pregnant women offered these types and at the same time as the rest of the population based on their age and clinical risk group.

But the online booking system does not allow people to specify which vaccine they require and GPs say they are unable to control which type they are sent.

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A campaign group for expecting women said they had been “inundated” with messages from those struggling to access a vaccine.

MP Stella Creasy, who is currently pregnant with her second child, is pushing for change. The 44-year-old said she has had five invitations to be vaccinated but has been left unable to book in for the Pfizer or Moderna injections.

She is currently working with GPs in Walthamstow, north-east London, to help pregnant women receive leftover Pfizer vaccines. But she said there should be a national system set up to allow people to specify if they need a particular type of jab when booking an appointment.

UK rollout of the Moderna vaccine began in April but it is “not currently expected” to be supplied to GPs.

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‘It’s been stressful trying to get it’

a person riding on the back of a boat: Lissa Lander is 32 weeks pregnant and struggling to get a Covid jab (Photo: Lissa Lander) © Provided by The i Lissa Lander is 32 weeks pregnant and struggling to get a Covid jab (Photo: Lissa Lander)

Lissa Lander is 32 weeks pregnant and has spent hours on the phone over the last three weeks trying to get the jab with no luck. She says that because of her age (43) and being clinically vulnerable she’s worried about catching coronavirus.

As soon as the new advice came out she called and she says her local vaccination centre – consisting of her GP surgery and eight others – initially told her they wouldn’t vaccinate pregnant women. “I told them about the new data and that before the new guidelines it was still my choice if I wanted it. I had to get my GP to write them a letter.

“Since then they just keep telling me they don’t have any Pfizer at the moment and to call back.”

Lissa, from west Sussex, a nanny and trained science teacher, has autoimmune condition celiac disease. “It’s not a serious illness but this with my age and being pregnant concerns me. We have a two-year-old and my husband has been suffering with long Covid since March so it’s important I don’t get sick.”

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Bernie, who didn’t want her last name used, is 34 weeks pregnant and was told by her GP the only vaccine they have in is the AstraZeneca. “I’m worried about whether I’m going to get it in time as there’s only six weeks until I give birth,” she said. “I’m anxious about getting sick between now and then.”

The 28-year-old fundraiser from Birmingham, who has asthma, has been calling her GP for a week. “We’re told that Covid can be particularly risky for women in the third trimester. It’s been stressful trying to get it.”

More mothers-to-be over 40

Previously, with the lack of data, pregnant women were advised to discuss with their GP the benefits and risks of Covid vaccination.

Then after the US study of 90,000 women found Pfizer and Moderna safe, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) changed its guidance, noting that there is “no evidence” to suggest that other vaccines – such as AstraZeneca’s version – are unsafe for pregnant women, but more research is needed.

About 700,000 women give birth in England and Wales each year.

Stella, MP for Walthamstow, said that the current system for booking a jab “doesn’t match” the medical advice.

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She told the BBC that she believes it’s not been made a priority because of the presumption pregnant women are younger and therefore not at great risk of the virus.

However, women are progressively delaying childbearing until older ages. Conception rates for women 40 and over have more than doubled since 1991, the latest Office for National Statistics reveal.

“I don’t think it’s been made enough of a priority because there’s a presumption it will become more of a priority as they move through the age groups, which is a misreading of the data about pregnancy,” she said.

She added that some expectant mothers have serious health conditions and are unable to get a vaccine.

‘This is not okay’

Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said the “glitches in the system” should be fixed as a matter of urgency. “We have been inundated with messages from pregnant women who are trying to access the vaccine with no success,” she said. “Many women are also being given ill informed and incorrect information from medical professionals. This is not okay.

“For many, making the decision to have the vaccine was a difficult one, so these additional challenges are having a negative impact on the mental health of pregnant women. We know that pregnant women are more likely to end up in ICU or to give birth prematurely if they contract Covid19, so it should be a matter of urgency to fix the glitches in the system to ensure pregnant women who want the vaccine can easily access it. Why have pregnant women and mothers been forgotten about again?’’

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NHS England said pregnant women are advised to speak to their GP instead of booking online. A spokesperson said: “Following the updated guidance set out by the JCVI, the NHS immediately communicated the advice to GPs. If you’re pregnant, or think you might be, speak to your maternity team or GP surgery to discuss your vaccine appointment so that it can be arranged at a site offering the Pfizer/BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine, which is preferable for pregnant women.”

The Department of Health and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has been approached for comment.

The risks of Covid in pregnancy

Studies from the UK show that pregnant women are no more likely to get Covid-19 than other healthy adults, according to The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

Roughly two-thirds of pregnant women with the virus have no symptoms at all, and most pregnant women who do have symptoms only have mild cold or flu-like symptoms, the organisation has stressed.

However, “a small number” of pregnant women can become unwell with Covid-19 – pregnant women who catch the virus may be at increased risk of becoming severely unwell compared to non-pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester.

Pregnant women were included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution.

Mothers-to-be who have Covid-19 appear more likely to develop respiratory complications requiring intensive care than women who aren’t pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US. Pregnant women are also more likely to be placed on a ventilator.

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Experts think this is because pregnancy suppresses the immune system so your body doesn’t reject the baby.

Research has found that pregnant women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were more likely than other women to be admitted to hospital for Covid-19, say the RCOG. Expectant mothers over the age of 35, those who had a BMI of 25 or more, and those who had pre-existing medical problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, were also at higher risk of developing severe illness and requiring admission to hospital.

The NHS has said that it may be possible for you to pass coronavirus to your baby before they are born. But when this has happened, the babies have got better.

UK government advice states available evidence suggests that Covid-19 infection in pregnancy is unlikely to lead to problems with a baby’s development and there have not been any reports of this. There is also no evidence of an increased risk of miscarriage if you become infected during pregnancy.

But there have been studies to suggest that there is an elevated risk of giving birth prematurely.

Do you have a real life story? Email claudia.tanner@inews.co.uk.

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