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Practices should inform pregnant patients about Covid boosters

by Julie Griffiths
24 October 2022

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Practices must ensure pregnant women know they are eligible for Covid autumn boosters because no national invitations will go out, NHS England said last week.

In a letter sent to GPs earlier this month, NHS England said no national call for pregnant women to receive their Covid booster was ‘due to limitations in the timeliness of national data on maternity’.

It said: ‘Local services must therefore ensure that all pregnant women are informed of their eligibility, as part of routine care.’

The letter urged primary care, maternity and community pharmacy services to take ‘every opportunity’ to encourage pregnant women to be vaccinated against covid, flu and pertussis (whooping cough) this autumn.

Last month, pregnant women were targeted in a Covid vaccine misinformation campaign. A post shared widely on Twitter incorrectly stated that the Government had quietly removed approval for Covid vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding women. 

But the document referred to was from 2020 when the first vaccine was approved and out of date, health officials have clarified.

Pregnant women have been eligible to receive vaccination against flu, as part of the programme that began on 1 September. And they have been able to book their Covid booster since last month through the national booking system.

NHS England’s letter said that the Covid booster can be given at the same time as the flu or whooping cough vaccine. It said that services ‘should not delay providing any one vaccine in order to provide them together’. 

It also said that pregnant women getting their Covid and flu vaccinations together from their local GP ‘should be supported wherever requested’, dependent on local services’ participation in the vaccination programmes. 

UK studies have demonstrated that symptomatic Covid-19 in pregnancy is linked to a two to threefold increased risk of pre-term birth, and an increased rate of stillbirth.  

In the summer, the Government accepted JCVI advice that Covid-19 boosters should be offered this autumn to all persons aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group – including pregnant women – because they are at higher risk of severe Covid-19 infection in the winter.