The government has launched a campaign to encourage pregnant women who have not had a first, second, third or booster Covid-19 jab to come forward and get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The campaign by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives is highlighting the serious risks of catching Covid-19 and the benefits vaccines bring to protecting both mothers and their babies.
It is urging pregnant women “don’t wait to take the vaccine” and is highlighting the risks of Covid-19 to mother and baby, as well as the benefits of vaccination.
While occupational health has not specifically been mentioned within the campaign, it is encouraging pregnant women who have concerns or questions about Covid-19 vaccination to seek out medical advice, whether from a GP, midwife or other health professional, which could include OH.
DHSC chief scientific adviser and honorary consultant obstetrician Professor Lucy Chappell said: “Getting a Covid-19 vaccine is one of the most important things a pregnant woman can do this year to keep herself and her baby as safe from this virus as possible.
“If you haven’t had your Covid-19 vaccine, I would urge you to speak to your clinician or midwife if you have any questions or concerns, and book in your vaccine as soon as you can,” she said, highlighting that data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System had shown 96.3% of pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid-19 symptoms between May and October 2021 had been unvaccinated, a third of whom (33%) required respiratory support.
Around one in five women hospitalised with the virus needed to be delivered preterm to help them recover and one in five of their babies needed care in the neonatal unit, she added.
Covid-19 and pregnancy
England’s top GP has also urged families to get their children protected against Covid-19.
Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for NHS England and NHS Improvement and deputy lead of the NHS vaccination programme, said around half a million vaccination appointments for 12- to 15-year-olds are up for grabs across the country during January.
“Young people can get their life-saving protection at a walk-in site or wait to get vaccinated at school, but the best way to make sure it happens quickly and conveniently is to book online now,” she said.
Separately, research has concluded that vaccine hesitancy can be reduced by providing health information in a foreign language.
The study in the journal Nature: Scientific Reports found that, when presenting two groups with the same information about vaccines in two different but familiar languages, the use of one language corresponded with a 7% higher number of people saying “yes”. It also led to a 7% lower number of people saying “unsure” when asked whether they intended to get vaccinated.
The research, led by assistant professor Janet Geipel from the University of Exeter Business School and co-authored by doctoral student Leigh H Grant and Professor Boaz Keysar from the University of Chicago, found that a simple language intervention has the potential to boost vaccination rates, especially among bilingual populations.
The study was conducted in Hong Kong, where many residents are native speakers of Cantonese but also speak English.
Finally, the introduction of mandatory Covid-19 vaccination within the NHS from April continued to cause controversy over the weekend after a consultant anaesthetist questioned the policy during a visit by heath secretary Sajid Javid to King’s College Hospital in London.
Dr Steve James gave a number of broadcast interviews where he claimed that “the science is not strong enough” on vaccination, that he had acquired immunity through natural infection, and that NHS colleagues should “stand up and make your voices heard” if they disagreed with the vaccine mandate.
But his comments drew stiff criticism from many within and outside the NHS, both on social and more mainstream media, with many pointing out that Dr James also runs a private ‘breathlessness’ clinic.
Thousands of NHS staff took to Twitter and other social media platforms to condemn his comments and explaining why they had received both doses and a booster jab.
One fellow anaesthetist, Dr Rich Breeze, University Hospital Lewisham, for example, told the i newspaper: “I completely disagree with Steve James who told Sajid Javid on that he didn’t believe in vaccines. A deluded, irresponsible and dangerous intervention.”
The media storm also follows publication of guidance from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine last week that emphasised, among other things, that occupational health practitioners should avoid getting involved in employment or disciplinary matters if employees covered by mandatory vaccination rules refuse to get a Covid-19 jab.