New vaccine advice: Pregnant women should be offered Pfizer or Moderna jabs

Laura Donnelly
·4 min read
Vaccine and pregnant woman - Ute Grabowsky/Photothek 
Vaccine and pregnant woman - Ute Grabowsky/Photothek
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

Pregnant women should be offered the Pfizer or Moderna jab, says the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Until now, the Government’s independent advisors have not routinely recommended any Covid vaccines for those who are pregnant.

The new advice says they should be offered vaccines at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and any clinical risks.

However, the medical advice says it is preferable that they should be offered Pfizer or Moderna jabs, where available.

Real world data from the United States shows around 90,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated, mainly with the mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna, without any safety concerns being raised.

The committee said there was no evidence to suggest that other vaccines, such as AstraZeneca, are unsafe for pregnant women, but said more research was needed.

AstraZeneca vaccine benefits outweigh the risk for most age groups
AstraZeneca vaccine benefits outweigh the risk for most age groups

Until now, pregnant women have not been routinely offered jabs, unless they are at high risk of complications or are health and social care workers.

Britain’s vaccination programme has largely been carried out in age order, this week reaching those aged 45 and over, so that it has yet to reach the majority of women of fertile age.

Pregnant women who do get symptomatic Covid-19 infection are two to three times more likely to give birth to their baby prematurely, experts said.

The advice, published in Public Health England’s Green Book, a clinical professional guide for vaccinators in the UK, still advises that pregnant women should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with their clinician, including the latest evidence on safety and which vaccines they should receive.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chairman for the JCVI, said: “We encourage pregnant women to discuss the risks and benefits with their clinician – those at increased risk of severe outcomes from Covid-19 are encouraged to promptly take up the offer of vaccination when offered.

“There have been no specific safety concerns from any brand of Covid-19 vaccines in relation to pregnancy.

“There is more real-world safety data from the US in relation to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in women who are pregnant – therefore, we advise a preference for these to be offered to pregnant women.”

How the Covid-19 vaccines compare
How the Covid-19 vaccines compare

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England (PHE), said: “The available data on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provide confidence that they can be offered safely to pregnant women.

“The Covid-19 vaccines continue to save thousands of lives and it is important that we encourage as many people as possible to take up the offer when it is their turn.”

Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said: “We are grateful to the JCVI for taking into consideration our evidence and updating the guidance around the Covid-19 vaccine in pregnancy.

“Vaccination offers pregnant women the best protection from Covid-19, which can be serious in some women.

“We believe it should be a woman’s choice whether to have the vaccine or not after considering the benefits and risks and would encourage pregnant women to discuss with a trusted source like their GP, obstetrician or midwife, or a healthcare professional in a vaccination centre.

“This move will empower all the pregnant women in the UK to make the decision that is right for them, at the same time that the non-pregnant population in their age group receive protection from Covid-19.”

The greatest risk factor for severe outcomes from Covid-19 is age, which is why pregnant women should be invited for vaccination along with their age or clinical risk group.

Women who are planning pregnancy, are in the immediate postpartum, or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine, depending on their age and clinical risk group, officials said.

The JCVI will continue to closely monitor the evidence on coronavirus vaccination in pregnancy and will update its advice as required.

The JCVI advised last week that, as a precaution, it is preferable for people under the age of 30 with no underlying health conditions to be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine where possible.