Pregnant women are not at greater risk of catching COVID than women who are not pregnant. However, we know that if pregnant women are infected with COVID, then there is an increased chance that they become seriously ill. We also know that if a mother-to-be develops COVID, there is a threat to the unborn child. Despite this knowledge, pregnant women were excluded from early clinical trials studying COVID vaccines. As a result, recommendations on vaccination in pregnancy have changed over time and by country.

More pregnant women should be vaccinated

Now data from Scotland shows that vaccination of pregnant women is very effective. Between the start of a COVID vaccine program in December 2020 through October 2021 in Scotland (when the Delta variant was at its peak), 25,917 COVID vaccinations were given to 18,457 pregnant women. However, researchers found that vaccination rates were much lower in pregnant women than in all women aged 18-44, pregnant or not. For example, they found that only 32% of participating pregnant women had two doses of the vaccine compared to 77% of women in general. Rates were lowest in younger women and those in the lowest-income areas.

Greater risks from COVID for unvaccinated pregnant women

Researchers also found that serious complications from COVID in pregnancy were more common in women who were unvaccinated at the time of COVID diagnosis than in vaccinated pregnant women. Researchers also looked at the perinatal mortality. This refers to the death of a baby in the womb or shortly after birth. In this study, women who gave birth within 28 days of COVID diagnosis had a perinatal mortality rate 4 times higher than those without COVID. Overall, 77% of COVID infections, 91% of hospital admission for COVID, and 98% of critical care admissions occurred in pregnant women who were unvaccinated when diagnosed with COVID.

These new findings support the urgency of women being vaccinated in pregnancy. Vaccination prevents bad outcomes of COVID. The vaccination rate in pregnant women must be increased to protect the health of women and babies in the ongoing pandemic.


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