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Get vaccinated to protect your baby’ plea to people in Calderdale and Huddersfield

Pregnant women and people in Calderdale and Huddersfield are being urged to get vaccinated to protect both themselves and their unborn baby against the serious effects of COVID-19.

COVID-19 infection doubles the risk of pre-term birth by emergency caesarean and increases the risk of developing pre-eclampsia and having a stillbirth. However, according to recent data, only 56% of pregnant people in Yorkshire and the North East have been vaccinated and just 42% have had both doses.

Local health chiefs are keen to make sure people are aware of the dangers COVID-19 can present to their baby and get protected as soon as possible.

Kate Heighway, Lead Midwife for Public Health at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust said: “We do understand that some women and people are concerned about having the vaccine when pregnant but want to reassure them that not only will it not harm their baby, but the vaccine will actually protect both them and their baby from the serious effects that COVID-19 can cause. All the evidence has shown that it is safe to have the vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy or when you are trying to conceive so if you are pregnant and haven’t had your first or second dose, please book an appointment as soon as possible.”

As with all new medicines, the vaccine was not routinely offered in pregnancy at first, but as further data became available, the JCVI was able to review this and confirmed that the vaccine was both safe and effective to take in pregnancy. This is supported by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives, which have both recommended vaccinations as one of the best defences for pregnant women and people against severe COVID-19 infection.

Shannon O’Keefe decided not to have the vaccination when she was first offered it – believing she wasn’t at risk from COVID-19. But at 37 weeks, she fell seriously ill with COVID. Now she’s urging all pregnant women to ensure they get vaccinated as soon as possible.

A mother holds her baby, smiling at it lovingly.
Shannon O’Keefe with her baby Eva

28-year-old Shannon, from Brighouse, said: “I found out I was pregnant in early January 2021. Although excited, in the back of my mind I was concerned as COVID-19 cases were growing ever more by the day. I was worried how it would affect me and my pregnancy but at the time the health professionals were not recommending pregnant women to have the vaccine and I was relieved as personally I didn’t think there was enough evidence to prove it was safe to take while expecting and didn’t want to take any risks.

“As time went on, pregnant women began to receive invitations for the COVID vaccination, but I was still set on not having it. Looking back, I was very naive by thinking it won’t happen to me, but I was being very cautious by only going out when needed to medical appointments, wearing a face covering when out and using sanitiser.”

Shannon continued: “Unfortunately at 37 weeks pregnant I contracted COVID. My heart sank with fear! I was overcome with emotion at the thought of anything bad happening to my little one or me, with a story I had just read fresh in my mind of a poor woman sadly passing away from COVID just after she had given birth.

“For a week I was knocked off my feet and I’d never felt so poorly in my life. At 38 weeks pregnant I went into labour still positive with COVID. I wasn’t sure if I had the energy to give birth and all the fears and concerns were spinning around my head. Luckily, I had a safe delivery and me and my daughter came out unscathed, but it wasn’t without risk.

“If I had the option to take the vaccination again whilst being pregnant I would, as now I know that there’s lots of evidence that it’s safe to take whilst pregnant. I can’t urge all expecting women strongly enough to come forward and receive the vaccine. This virus is scary and is far from over, so we all need to do what we can to protect ourselves, our loved ones and others.

Kate Heighway added: “I really can’t stress enough how important it is to get the vaccine if you are pregnant to protect both you and your baby. There has been a lot of misinformation about the vaccines, especially around pregnancy and conceiving. I believe that you have the right to make a fully informed decision based on the current evidence so if you have any questions or concerns, please speak to your midwife or GP to make sure you get accurate information.

“If you live in Calderdale or Huddersfield you can also text or call me on 0771 751 7563 and I’m happy to answer your questions. I’ve had conversations with over 100 people through this service, with an estimated 95% going on to get their vaccine.”

Further information

Pregnant frontline health or care workers or those in an at-risk group were offered the vaccine from December 2020. This was then extended to all pregnant women in April 2021.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are continuing to monitor data on COVID-19 vaccinations, including those in pregnancy.  Data from over 100,000 COVID-19 vaccinations in pregnancy in England and Scotland, and a further 160,000 in the US, show there has been no subsequent harm to the foetus or infant.

While COVID-19 infection increases the risk of stillbirth, the actual number of stillbirths remains low (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:  https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/coronavirus-covid-19-pregnancy-and-womens-health/covid-19-vaccines-and-pregnancy/covid-19-vaccines-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding/)