Coronavirus Vaccine: ‘Women Getting Pregnant Is Seen As A Problem Or A Complication’

It’s taken a month for the government to address issues with pregnant women getting vaccinated – we speak to Stella Creasy and Pregnant Then Screwed about the long battle and their continued concerns around maternity and covid care.

Pregnant vaccine booking pfizer moderna

by Rhiannon Evans |

For more parenting stories, (non judgmental) advice, tips and memes, check out Grazia's new parenting community on Instagram, @TheJuggleUK

Almost a month ago, after weeks of campaigning and confusion, the government issued guidelines stating that pregnant women can and should be vaccinated against Covid – when they were called for it (because of their age, or a pre-existing health condition) and only the lesser-available Pfizer and Moderna jabs. But, as well as having to turn around weeks of disinformation and fears, campaigners then pointed out that pregnant women were finding it hugely difficult to become vaccinated – because the booking system wasn’t changed or altered in any way, to allow them to book in for the two allowed jabs.

Now, after weeks of campaigning by the likes of MP Stella Creasy and group Pregnant Then Screwed, at the end of last week, the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) finally worked to change this. A letter to healthcare bosses instructed: ‘NHS Digital will be amending the national booking service in the coming days to allow pregnant women to book into specific vaccine appointments in line with JCVI guidance.’

But many are cautious in their optimism around the news – and understandably frustrated again that when it comes to mothers and pregnant women, it’s been another fight to get what they need.

‘We have to see because we don’t know quite today what they’re changing it to,’ Ms Creasy told Grazia. ‘I’m still today getting lots of people saying, “I still can’t access the vaccine”. Today we’ve got a bunch of people being vaccinated through our system in Walthamstow, where we’ve been working with our local doctor’s practice to identify women who are eligible and then link them into where there is Pfizer. It’s taken a month, and it shouldn’t have taken a month, but I’m glad to see it’s changing, we now have to see if it works, because there’s a backlog of pregnant women.'

It is incredibly frustrating to have to constantly remind the Government that pregnant women exist.

Joeli Brearley, founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed added: ‘It has been almost four weeks since pregnant women were told they could receive the vaccine. For many, deciding to have it has been a very difficult decision; so to then face insurmountable challenges when trying to access it, including medical professionals giving sometimes inaccurate information, has triggered huge amounts of stress and anxiety. We are therefore very relieved to hear that this issue will be fixed as a matter of urgency, but it is incredibly frustrating to have to constantly remind the Government that pregnant women exist and that they may have different requirements and needs.’

Speaking about the fight to get government and healthcare bosses to recognize this issue, Ms Creasy added: ‘Women getting pregnant is seen as a problem or a complication, rather than something you also need to plan for. I’m pregnant myself and am asking questions in meetings with ministers. The answers that are coming back are, “Yes, we need to deal with this as we get further down the age groups…” But I was pointing out, there’s quite a few of us now! We need your help now.

‘It’s not just about the vaccine, we’ve had to fight to make sure women aren’t going to scans on their own and getting bad news on their own, let alone having to give birth alone or without support. But that’s because it starts with the idea that somehow pregnant is a problem is that you have to solve when it comes to service delivery rather than something you have to address. In fairness to the ministers they have engaged in this debate, what I’ve not understood is why it’s taken so long, because it seems like a relatively simple question – when have you got Pfizer in, where and how can people book for that? I had five letters and texts telling me to have my vaccine, but couldn’t follow up on those because it wouldn’t allow me to specify when I booked. It would allow me to specify if I needed somewhere accessible, so there’s obviously an ability within the system to prioritise particular areas and concerns, but not if you’re pregnant.

It’s not me I’m worried about, it’s premature risk births and what risk that is to the baby.

‘I’ve had women saying I’ve called my GPs, they don’t know, my midwives don’t know, I’ve gone round and round, been sent to appointments and then they’ve had Astra-Zeneca so I’ve had to be turned away, which means then you’ve got a waste of Astra-Zeneca as well, so it’s not good to anyone to resolve this.’

Many officials she spoke to also seemed to misunderstand the urgency of the issue for thousands of women who are pregnant and now eligible for the vaccine thanks to their age. She said: ‘More women over 40 in this country are pregnant than under 20 – I’ve also been sharing with the JCVI the demographic data to show this is why this needs to be sorted now. The age at which women get age in this pregnant has moved. Thousands of women need this system to work now because they are at risk. Yes, if at my age I was to get covid, I would probably survive, but it’s not me I’m worried about, it’s premature birth and what risk that is to the baby.

‘The last year, the only bit of public discussion about pregnancy has been what to do if a member of the cabinet gets pregnant. Women being made redundant or being furloughed because they’re pregnant, or being put on sick pay – they’ve been an after-thought.

‘It shouldn’t be that it’s the personal experiences of MPs that define these things, it means that I can provide and insight to what’s going on in the ground, but that’s with my MP hat on. It shouldn’t take a proactive doctor or a grumpy MP to get a service to work!’

There are still issues to campaign on too. Ms Creasy would like ministers to consider all pregnant women, regardless of age, a priority for the vaccine. ‘I’ve also made representations to the JCVI that they should look again at the evidence about whether all pregnant women should be considered a priority because of the risk of premature birth – other countries have made all pregnant women a priority regardless of age or pre-existing conditions and I’m especially concerned about women in their later trimester.’

It shouldn’t take a proactive doctor or a grumpy MP to get a service to work!

And even with plans to change the booking system, there’s still a feeling overall that these women aren’t a priority. ‘The guidance from the government when first issued said if you’re vaccinating pregnant women, use the surplus Pfizer stock – use what’s not used because someone’s not shown up,’ said Ms Creasy. ‘Which means we were the only group of patients waiting for leftover vaccines. I got one on Friday because people didn’t show up to that clinic, so there were spares – that’s the only way pregnant women are accessing vaccines at the moment. It’s a sign of where pregnant women are often an after-thought.’

Ms Brearley echoed that sentiment. ‘'Since the announcement that pregnant women could have the vaccine there has been a vacuum of information about the risks and benefits,’ she added.’That vacuum has been filled with dangerous misinformation. Many pregnant women incorrectly believe that there is official data which proves the vaccine can trigger a miscarriage. The Government should be doing everything they can to counter this misinformation, but we are seeing very little effort to communicate directly with the women themselves. The current advice is that pregnant women should speak to their GP if they want the vaccine - but what we are hearing is that many GPs aren’t up to date on the guidance. It feels very disjointed and leaves pregnant women vulnerable.’

The booking system for pregnant women should be updated in the coming days. If you are still experiencing problems booking a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a pregnant woman by the end of the week, you’re urged to contact your MP and to ask them to raise the issue as soon as possible, given the updated JCVI guidance.

READ MORE: The Mums Aren't Alright! Check In On Your Friends; They Are Not Okay

READ MORE: As A Pregnant Woman, I feel Anxious And Confused About The Easing Of Lockdown

READ MORE: All Pregnant Women In The UK Will Be Offered The Covid Vaccine Now

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us