Health chiefs across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are urging pregnant women to get a COVID-19 vaccination to protect themselves and their unborn baby.
The call came after it was revealed that since July 2021 one in five COVID-19 patients nationwide receiving treatment through a special breathing machine was pregnant and had not had their first jab.
The Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine is used only when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by COVID-19 that a ventilator cannot maintain oxygen levels.
NHS data shows that since vaccinations began in December 2020, almost every person who has received ECMO for COVID-19 in the UK has been unvaccinated.
Dr Paddy Hannigan, Clinical Lead for the vaccination programme in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, says: “Our message to all pregnant women is that the COVID-19 jab can keep you, your baby and your loved ones safe and out of hospital.
“You can receive vaccination at any time during pregnancy, but we would advise you to do so as quickly as possible as the evidence shows that unvaccinated pregnant women face the risk of becoming severely unwell if they catch COVID-19.”
Dr Hannigan adds that although some people experience mild side effects from receiving the jab this is a sign that the vaccine is working and stressed that it is safe for patients to also get the jab while they are breastfeeding.
He is urging people to make sure they get the second dose to ensure longer-lasting protection and adds that anyone thinking of starting a family should be reassured that there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or their chances of becoming pregnant.
Pregnant women are also being advised that it is especially important for them to get their flu jab this year as more individuals are likely to get the illness, as fewer people will have built up natural immunity to it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, if you were to have COVID-19 and flu at the same time, research shows that you are more likely to become seriously ill.
It is safe to have the flu vaccine during any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to the expected due date. Those who have had the flu vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives. NHS flu vaccines are free for pregnant women.
It's also safe for women who are breastfeeding to receive the flu vaccine.
The NHS has arranged for the COVID-19 vaccine to be offered at a number of convenient local locations, including some antenatal clinics, and pregnant women are encouraged to speak to their GP, nurse or midwife if they have questions about getting the jab. You can book a COVID-19 vaccine by calling 119 or visiting https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/
You can also attend a walk-in vaccination centre, where no appointment is needed. Up-to-date details and times for all Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent COVID-19 vaccination walk-in clinics can be found at https://www.twbstaffsandstoke.org.uk/coronavirus/how-to-get-a-vaccine-where-and-travelling
Any pregnant women wanting the flu jab should also contact their midwife or GP surgery to find out where it is available. Some community pharmacies now offer the flu vaccine on the NHS.