Can pregnant women get the Oxford vaccine?

The rollout of coronavirus vaccines is underway, with several key groups being vaccinated first. As the only hope for a way out of the pandemic, the various vaccines on offer have been thoroughly tested and approved for use in a variety of countries. However, some people have found themselves unable to take the vaccine as it has been thought or shown to have adverse effects on people with certain conditions, such as allergies.

Vaccinology expert Professor Sarah Gilbert from the University of Oxford said in December: “It will be important to include pregnant women in the trials because they’re potentially at risk of more severe disease but that’s something that has to be done in a very careful manner.

“We have to complete particular toxicology studies before we can enrol pregnant women in the trials and that is all in the planning stages at the moment.

“So pregnant women will not be included in vaccine rollout initially, they will be one of the groups that will require further assessment.

“And then we would hope to add that to the groups that can receive the vaccine at a slightly later stage.”

Previous advice has recommended that the vaccine should not be given to pregnant women or those who expect to become pregnant, and those with allergies.

The advice has been updated – as has the advice for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which was approved for use back in December.

“Women should discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their healthcare professional and reach a joint decision based on individual circumstances.”

Meanwhile, all breastfeeding women should be offered the vaccine and advised that there “is no known risk associated with giving non-live vaccines whilst breastfeeding.”

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, along with the Royal College of Midwives, released a statement in which it said it is “recommending that pregnant women who might be eligible for vaccination should receive it through their maternity unit, or notify their local maternity unit when it is received.

“This is so that maternity staff can report it to the UKOSS/UKTIS vaccine registry, including report of follow-up post-vaccination of the women and their babies.”

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Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, says it is normal practice to avoid giving vaccines to pregnant women “unless there is evidence to support safety”.

He added: “This is because of the very high need to avoid risk to the mother, the baby and the pregnancy.

“Equally there is a need to provide protection to pregnant women against infection.

“Accordingly it is a priority to obtain the necessary information to confirm whether this is safe. But this takes time.”

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