The Chief Medical Officer is calling on pregnant women to come forward for vaccination, if they haven’t already done so.
This latest call follows the publication of a new study from the University of Edinburgh which found that women who get Covid-19 towards the end of their pregnancy are at an increased risk of birth-related complications.
The findings show that preterm births, stillbirths and newborn deaths are more common among women who have the virus 28 days, or less, before their delivery date. The study also provided further reassurance on the safety of vaccination during pregnancy.
Professor Sir Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, said: “This new study provides more evidence that having Covid-19 during pregnancy carries a far higher risk than having the vaccine, particularly in the later stages where it can have serious consequences for both mother and baby.
“The message is clear. Covid-19 vaccination is crucial in protecting women and babies from the life-threatening complications that can be associated with the virus. Anyone who is pregnant and has not received all of their vaccinations, should not put off getting vaccinated until after their pregnancy.
“Omicron is continuing to spread throughout Northern Ireland, so if you are pregnant, or hoping to become pregnant it is absolutely vital that you get vaccinated, this includes getting the booster. Vaccination is the most effective way you can protect yourself and your unborn baby.”
Dr Carolyn Bailie, Chair, Northern Ireland Committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “The evidence clearly shows that pregnancy puts women and their babies at higher risk from Covid-19 and that is why we encourage women to get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity. Vaccination can be given at any stage of pregnancy, so please don’t wait until after your baby is born, it is vital that you and your baby are protected during pregnancy.”
Karen Murray, Director for Northern Ireland at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “Having the COVID vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their babies and the best thing they can do to defend them both from the virus. The statistics are stark; the vast majority of pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID are unvaccinated. The consequences of this, particularly late in pregnancy, can be shattering. You can have the vaccine at any point in your pregnancy, and midwives are urging pregnant women to protect themselves, protect their baby and have the vaccine and have it now.”
Vaccination against Covid-19 in pregnancy is strongly recommended by both the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Further information on vaccination in pregnancy is published on www.nidirect.gov.uk/covidvaccine