Pregnant women will now be able to request a specific type of vaccine when booking their coronavirus vaccination.
It comes after warnings from the charity Maternity Action that pregnant women have faced confusion, delays and wasted trips when trying to access their vaccines. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) also expressed their concern.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises that it is “preferable” for pregnant women in the UK to be offered the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines where available. But the original online booking system did not give pregnant women the option to specify what vaccine they wanted.
It means some were visiting vaccine centres, only to have to turn around at the door, with no idea when they’d actually get vaccinated.
“The NHS online booking system in England is letting down pregnant women, causing understandable anxiety and frustration,” Mary Ross-Davie, Director of Professional Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said.
“The speed of the rollout for the vaccine has been world-leading, but it needs the systems in place to keep pace. It’s distressing to hear of pregnant women being unable to access a vaccine centre that carries either the Pfizer BioNtech or Moderna vaccine. That is not acceptable.”
The statement followed another announcement from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) that all people under 40 should be offered an alternative to the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Following the latest announcement, we urge government and the NHS to ensure there is a system in place that enables pregnant women – including those over the age of 40 who have already been invited to book their vaccine – to easily access alternative vaccines,” Dr Pat O’Brien, vice president at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, added.
“The latest government guidance for pregnant women is to contact their GP for advice on how to receive the appropriate vaccine. However GP practices are reporting that they don’t have the ability to do this, leaving pregnant women feeling frustrated and helpless as they are passed from pillar to post.”
Ros Bragg, director of Maternity Action, said she was not surprised that pregnant women have found it difficult to access the preferred Covid-19 vaccine, given the needs of pregnant women and new mothers have been “woefully low on the government’s priority list” throughout the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts said it felt like “yet another system that just doesn’t take women into account”.
A letter to health providers from senior bosses, including the national medical director for England, Prof Stephen Powis, published on Friday, said: “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.”