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New data show rise in hospital admissions for unvaccinated pregnant women

NIHR-funded researchers have found that more than 99% of pregnant women admitted to hospital with symptomatic COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

COVID-19 poses significant risks to both mother and baby. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to becoming severely ill from COVID-19, and around one in ten pregnant women admitted to hospital with symptoms of COVID-19 require intensive care. One in five pregnant women admitted to hospital with symptoms of COVID-19 gives birth prematurely.

The research study, Maternal and perinatal outcomes of pandemic influenza in pregnancy, found that new data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS), published on preprint server medRxiv, show that COVID-19 vaccinations offer effective protection from these risks. This new analysis reports information on all pregnant women admitted with symptoms of confirmed COVID-19 in pregnancy in the UK from the beginning of the pandemic up to 11 July 2021. 

The data show:

  • 3371 pregnant women have been admitted to hospital with symptomatic COVID-19.
  • The severity of women’s illness appears to have become worse; 24% of women admitted in the first wave had moderate or severe disease, compared with 36% with the Alpha variant and 45% with the Delta variant.
  • Vaccination data has been collected since 1 February 2021. Of 742 women admitted since that date, only four have received a single dose of vaccine and none have received both doses. 

This means that more than 99% of pregnant women admitted to hospital with symptomatic COVID-19 are unvaccinated. In comparison, 60% of the general population admitted to hospital with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. During this time, at least 55,000 pregnant women have received one or more doses of a COVID vaccine in the UK. 

Marian Knight, Professor of Maternal and Child Population Health at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford and study lead, said: “It is extremely good news that so few vaccinated pregnant women have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19. However, it is very concerning that admissions of pregnant women to hospital with COVID-19 are increasing and that pregnant women appear to be more severely affected by the Delta variant of the disease. 

“Around 200 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with COVID-19 last week. I cannot emphasise more strongly how important it is for pregnant women to get vaccinated in order to protect both them and their baby. Until they are vaccinated, pregnant women must continue to be extremely attentive to social distancing measures including mask wearing, 2m distancing and meeting outdoors where possible.” 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives recommend that unvaccinated women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy get their vaccine as soon as possible, and book their second doses once they are eligible.

The study, funded by the NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme is part of a suite of projects funded by the NIHR following the swine flu outbreak in 2009 which were set up and then put into hibernation, ready to be reactivated if another flu pandemic broke out. The study was adapted for COVID-19 and activated for this pandemic.

You can read more about this study on the NIHR Funding and Awards website