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Covid vaccine uptake rises among pregnant women but inequalities remain

Covid vaccine uptake rises among pregnant women but inequalities remain

Covid vaccine uptake among pregnant women is increasing but black women and women from deprived areas in England remain the least likely to be vaccinated, the latest UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data shows.

Six in 10 women giving birth in January 2022 had received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine – up from 54% in December 2021 and 49% in November 2021, the figures showed.

However, just 31% of black pregnant women had one or more doses of the vaccine by the time their baby was delivered between November 2021 and January 2022, compared to 58% of white women.

Only 39% of pregnant women in the most deprived areas of England had received one or more doses of the vaccine before delivery in the same time frame, compared to 71% in the least deprived areas.

The UKHSA warned: ‘Despite the upward trend in the number of pregnant women coming forward, women of black ethnicity and those living in the most deprived areas of England remain the least likely to be vaccinated.’

The latest figures take the total number of pregnant women who have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, between January 2021 and January 2022, to 125,365. In the same time period, 88,736 pregnant women received at least two doses and 14,378 women received three doses.

The data also found that 51% of women had received two doses of the vaccine in January – up from 43% in December 2021 and 38% in November 2021.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, deputy director of the Immunisation and Vaccine Preventable Diseases Division at UKHSA, said it is ‘very encouraging’ to see ‘the number of pregnant women coming forward for their Covid-19 vaccine increasing month by month.’

She continued: ‘We know pregnant women are at higher risk of severe disease and the Covid vaccines provide high levels of protection against becoming seriously unwell and hospitalised.

‘However, disparities in uptake persist, with women from some ethnic groups and those living in the most deprived areas being the least likely to be vaccinated. It is vitally important that we continue to address these disparities.’

Dr Amirthalingam pointed to ‘extensive evidence’ globally ‘supporting the safety of the currently recommended Covid vaccines for pregnant women’.

She added: ‘We continue to encourage all pregnant women to come forward for vaccination to give themselves and their baby the best possible protection against severe complications from Covid-19.’

Head of the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme, Steve Russell, said the increasing number of pregnant women opting to get vaccinated is ‘really positive’ and that ‘the NHS has been clear that getting protected is the best thing you can do if you are pregnant.’

He added: ‘Whether your next dose is your first or fourth, the NHS vaccine programme offer is evergreen and you can come forward at any time, with local healthcare professionals happy to address any concerns you may have.’

In December, pregnant women were added as a Covid clinical risk group by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

It comes after NHS England said in October that almost a fifth of the most critically ill Covid patients in England were pregnant and unvaccinated.

Global research led by the University of Birmingham and World Health Organisation last year found pregnant women are at a higher risk of suffering severe Covid-19, particularly if they are from ethnic minority backgrounds or have pre-existing conditions.

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