A doctor has voiced concerns over the number of pregnant women admitted to hospital with coronavirus.
Dr Vhairi Bateman, who works on the infectious disease ward at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said mums-to-be were now being treated at the city hospital.
Why are medics so worried?
“The health of the mums is really giving us cause for concern,” Dr Bateman said.
“With society opening up more people of child-bearing age can have quite a lot of contacts. If they’ve got other children they might be out and about doing things taking their kids to various activities.
“And when Covid is circulating at a high level in the community, unfortunately, the more contacts you have the more likely you are to come into contact with someone who is carrying the virus, either with, or without, symptoms.”
What are the main concerns for newborn babies?
The consultant said the virus caused further complications for new mums diagnosed because of the need to self-isolate with their babies at home.
“Generally the babies are not experiencing Covid infections and the advice is given to all mums on how to prevent transmission to their baby,” she said.
“When you’ve got a young baby to look after, even if you’re not seriously, or critically unwell, having to self-isolate and go through all those other problems does cause quite a lot of issues.
“One of the things we would like to highlight to people is that there has been a change in advice and the Scottish Government is now encouraging the vaccination of pregnant women.”
How much of a gap should mums-to-be leave between the two vaccines?
A new study is being launched to work out the best gap with more than 600 women being recruited for the trial.
Pregnant women aged 18 to 44 will be recruited and will randomly receive one of the vaccines either at a four to six week dosing gap or the longer eight to 12 week dosing gap.
Researchers will monitor the vaccine’s effectiveness and follow the development of children after they are born up to when they are one year old.
The launch comes less than a week after research revealed the vast majority of pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid-19 are unvaccinated.
Researchers at Oxford University described findings of their work as “concerning”, saying that one in 10 pregnant women in hospital with symptoms of Covid-19 often require intensive care.
Those behind this latest Preg-CoV trial said while there are currently no safety concerns when it comes to pregnant women having Covid-19 jabs, they hope it will give expectant mothers “the highest quality of data about these vaccines”.
The trial involves £7.5 million of UK Government funding and is being led by St George’s, University of London.
‘The vaccine uptake in pregnant women is disappointing’
Professor Paul Heath, chief investigator and professor of paediatric infectious diseases at St George’s, said: “The coverage (uptake) of vaccination in pregnancy at the moment is disappointing, it’s low, less than a third.
He said he hoped a lesson to be learned from this pandemic is “the need for including pregnant women in vaccine trials at an earlier stage”.
We feel comfortable with the safety of these vaccines. What we want to understand now is how to fine-tune them, to understand better how they work.
Dr Pat O’Brien, vice president at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
‘No pregnant woman with two jabs has required hospitalisation’
Dr Pat O’Brien, vice president at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the findings of the study are likely to be relevant “for many years to come”.
He said: “This is an important study. We feel comfortable with the safety of these vaccines. What we want to understand now is how to fine-tune them, to understand better how they work. What’s the optimal way of giving them?
“Bear in mind this pandemic is likely to become endemic, this is likely to be ongoing. So I suspect that the findings from this trial will be relevant to us, to pregnant women for many years to come.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from Covid-19 and we know that vaccines are safe for them and make a huge difference – in fact no pregnant woman with two jabs has required hospitalisation with Covid-19.
“This Government-backed trial will provide more data about how we can best protect pregnant women and their babies, and we can use this evidence to inform future vaccination programmes.”