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Nearly 20% of most critically ill Covid patients are pregnant and unvaccinated

by Jess Hacker
11 October 2021

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Almost 20% of the most critically ill Covid patients in England are pregnant people who have not been vaccinated, NHS England has said.

In a statement published today (11 October), the NHS said that since July one-in-five Covid patients receiving treatment via a lung-bypass machine were expectant mums who have not had their first coronavirus jab.

Additionally, nearly a third (32%) of all women between 16- and 49-years-old in intensive care and receiving Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) are pregnant.

This marked an increase from just 6% at the start of the pandemic.

The latest data from Public Health England (PHE) indicates that more than 81,000 pregnant people have received a first dose, while around 65,000 have had their second dose.

NHSE added that since the vaccine programme began last year, ‘almost every person’ receiving ECMO for Covid has been unvaccinated.

‘Stark reminder’

Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, called for ‘all pregnant women to come forward for their vaccinations’.

He added: ’The disproportionate number of unvaccinated pregnant women in intensive care demonstrates that there is a significant risk of severe illness from Covid-19 in pregnancy.‘

Pregnant people who were also health or care workers or in an at-risk group were first offered the vaccine in December 2020, with all pregnant people offered the vaccine from April 2021.

Meanwhile, Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, chief midwifery officer for England, said the data was a ‘stark reminder’ of the risks associated with not receiving the vaccine.

‘You can receive vaccination at any time in pregnancy, but the risks that unvaccinated pregnant women face of becoming severely unwell if they catch Covid-19 show exactly why we advise you to do so as soon as possible,’ she said.

Ms Dunkley-Bent had previously urged GP practices to actively encourage all pregnant women to come forward for their vaccinations.

People ‘severely underestimating’ Covid plus flu  

It comes after the Government launched a new campaign last week urging people to come forward for flu and Covid jabs ‘as soon as possible’.

The campaign revealed results of a survey which found that almost of third of people did not realise flu and Covid could co-exist.

The online survey, carried out last month, was commissioned by the Cabinet Office and showed that adults were ‘severely underestimating’ the combined threat of Covid and flu this winter, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

The report also warned that outbreaks of flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) could lead to double the number of related hospital admissions this winter compared with a pre-pandemic year.

Primary care will experience particular pressure from an RSV outbreak, it said, due to GPs seeing the majority of these patients.

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: ‘Not many people got flu last year because of Covid-19 restrictions, so there isn’t as much natural immunity in our communities as usual. We will see flu circulate this winter; it might be higher than usual and that makes it a significant public health concern.    

‘Covid-19 will still be circulating and with more people mixing indoors, sadly some increases are possible. For the first time we will have Covid-19 and flu co-circulating. We need to take this seriously and defend ourselves and the NHS by getting the annual flu jab and the Covid-19 booster when called.’