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6th November 2021

The research behind the safety of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy

summary of research evidence from the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre (WCEC) found COVID-19 vaccines to be safe and effective when given during pregnancy at any time and whilst breastfeeding.

In the report, developed in partnership with the Specialist Unit for Review Evidence at Cardiff University, the WCEC recommends health care professionals advise those who are pregnant to have the vaccine, particularly if they are part of an at-risk group.

From the research, the Centre also found there is an increased risk of becoming severely unwell with COVID-19 during pregnancy, and those who contract the virus are more likely to have pregnancy complications such as premature delivery or stillbirth.

The report states more than 200,000 people across the UK and USA have had COVID-19 vaccines whilst pregnant, with no evidence to suggest the vaccination causes harm to the unborn child, has an effect on fertility or poses a risk to the baby whilst breastfeeding.

In July 2021, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists updated their guidance to recommend vaccination against COVID-19 during pregnancy. However, vaccine uptake in this group is still low, leading to a higher number of pregnant people being hospitalised with the virus.

Professor Adrian Edwards, Director of the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre, said: “Public Health Wales and vaccine policy leads in Welsh Government needed an urgent summary of the evidence about risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy and the risks and benefits of vaccination during pregnancy.

“The Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre was able to rapidly bring this evidence together from guidelines and recommendations from six organisations including the World Health Organisation, Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and contribute it in a timely way to help pregnant people, midwives and other healthcare professionals access appropriate information and make informed decisions about what is best for them.”

Professor Julia Sanders, Health and Care Research Wales Specialty Lead for Reproductive Health, said: “The message is clear, vaccination during pregnancy is safe and reduces the risk of pneumonia, intensive care admission, premature birth, and baby deaths. This report provides important reassurance that vaccination during pregnancy is safe and effective.”

The WCEC was created March 2021 by Health and Care Research Wales on behalf of Welsh Government to review the wealth of vital COVID-19 research available, to make sure the evidence used to make COVID-19 health and social care decisions is up-to-date and relevant to Wales.

To keep up to date with the latest reports from the WCEC follow Health and Care Research Wales on Twitter.