The JCVI updated their advice on 16 April 2021 and are now advising that all pregnant women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group. This advice has been updated based on the large research studies which have just been published in America looking at pregnant women who have been vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which have shown excellent safety in pregnancy.
This is a significant change to the advice based on the emerging evidence but it’s important that you can make an informed choice.
Is it safe if I’m trying to conceive?
You can be vaccinated against COVID-19 if you’re aged 18 or over and you’re trying for a baby or might get pregnant in the future.
There’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant.
There’s no need to avoid getting pregnant after being vaccinated.
Why has my relative / friend who is also pregnant not been offered the vaccine?
All adults over 18 have now been invited for their vaccination, including people who are pregnant.
If you, or your relative, are under 18, you should discuss with your obstetrician or midwife whether you are clinically vulnerable.
Pregnant women with high risk medical conditions are offered vaccination because their underlying condition may put them at high risk of experiencing serious complications of COVID-19.
How will the vaccine affect women who plan to breastfeed or are breastfeeding?
Current recommendations are that the vaccine can be received whilst breastfeeding. Although research on the use of COVID-19 vaccines while breastfeeding is ongoing, COVID-19 vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant, and the benefits of breast-feeding are well known. Preliminary studies have shown that antibodies from getting the COVID-19 vaccine are passed to the baby during pregnancy and by breastfeeding.
Side effects are variable but common there is no reason to think that the vaccine will have worse side-effects in pregnant women
I initially declined the vaccination but now I’ve changed my mind – can I still book in?
Yes you can. Once you have been identified as eligible for vaccination that will not change so you will still be able to access the vaccination at a later date.
When is the best time in my pregnancy to have the vaccine?
A lot of women are concerned about when in pregnancy would be the best time to have a vaccination. The vaccine should work whatever the stage of pregnancy you are in. It is your choice to either have the vaccination immediately, to wait until after 12 weeks of pregnancy (which are most crucial for the baby’s development) or defer until after pregnancy.
Your decision should take into account your personal exposures to and risks from COVID-19. If you are classed as either at high risk of catching COVID-19 or have an underlying condition may put you at high risk of experiencing serious complications of COVID-19 then getting vaccinated earlier allows your body more time to build up an immune response and to protect you and your baby from COVID-19 in later pregnancy – when COVID-19 has more serious complications.
You can discuss these risks with a doctor or your midwife, and you may want to use the RCOG and RCM decision tool to assist you in deciding what to do next.
Can I wait until later in my pregnancy for the vaccine?
Some women may choose to wait until after the first 12 weeks (which are most important for the baby’s development) and will plan to have the first dose at any time from 13 weeks onward. However if you are more at risk of becoming seriously unwell if you were to contract COVID-19 because of an underlying condition then you may need to consider whether it is better for you to get immunised at the first opportunity possible to reduce this risk.
As pregnant women are more likely to be seriously unwell and have a higher risk of their baby being born prematurely if they develop COVID-19 in their third trimester (after 28 weeks), women may wish to have the vaccine before their third trimester if this is possible. There is no point in pregnancy when it is deemed too late to get vaccinated so if you are clinically at risk please discuss this with your team.
Can I speak to someone at the vaccination centre if I’ve got any concerns?
Yes. There is always a senior doctor on site and any person who is pregnant should be assessed by a doctor who will be able to go through any questions you have. This doctor is usually a GP.
Can I still attend if I’ve got children with me?
Yes, you can attend with your children with you if you are unable to find childcare, however it is preferable for you to come alone to reduce the amount of social interaction and risk of COVID-19 to you and your family along with the other patients being vaccinated that day which may include the clinically extremely vulnerable.