COVID-19 Vaccine

(Date: December 2020. Version: 1.0)

This factsheet has been written for members of the public by the UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS). UKTIS is a not-for-profit organisation funded by Public Health England on behalf of UK Health Departments. UKTIS has been providing scientific information to health care providers since 1983 on the effects that medicines, recreational drugs and chemicals may have on the developing baby during pregnancy.

What are they?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines give you immunity against COVID-19. Around 1 in 10 people who develop symptoms of COVID-19 will require hospital treatment. The risk of becoming unwell from COVID-19 increases with age.

Several COVID-19 vaccines are being developed, and one of these (the Pfizer or BioNTech vaccine) has been approved for use in the United Kingdom. None of the vaccines being developed for use in the UK contain live versions of the coronavirus, and cannot cause you to get COVID-19.

What are the benefits of being given the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccination reduces the chance of becoming unwell from COVID-19. It is hoped that these vaccines will help to protect those who are at highest risk, and decrease the spread of the virus in the community.

The decision about who will receive the vaccine first is based on risk. In general, pregnant women do not appear to be more likely to get COVID-19 than non-pregnant women, and most pregnant women who are infected will only experience mild to moderate symptoms. The risk of passing the virus onto the baby is also low. The current decision not to vaccinate pregnant women is NOT because the vaccines are harmful, but because there is not enough safety data on these vaccines in pregnancy.

If you are planning a pregnancy and you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine because you are clinically vulnerable or you work in healthcare, you are advised to receive two doses of the vaccination and wait three months after the first dose and two months after the second dose before getting pregnant. These are precautionary recommendations from Public Health England and are not based on evidence that the vaccine is actually harmful.

Are there any risks with having the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy?

Although COVID-19 vaccines are new, a lot is known about the safety of similar vaccines in pregnancy. There is currently no known risk with using non-live, weakened or non-replicating vaccines. All of the COVID-19 vaccines planned for use in the UK are non-live, weakened or non-replicating.

If you have received a first dose of the vaccine without knowing you are pregnant, it is recommended that you should delay the next dose until after your pregnancy has ended. Do not worry if you have received the vaccine whilst pregnant. Similar vaccines have been used safely in pregnancy for many years. You do not need to end your pregnancy because you have received the vaccine.

Some women may be vaccinated before realising they are pregnant. It is important that we collect as much information as possible about these pregnancies. If you live in the UK and were pregnant when you were given the vaccine, you should report your pregnancy to Public Health England (click here or telephone 020 8200 4400). Alternatively you can report this to us and we will share the information with PHE (0344 892 0909, available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday).

Are there any risks with having the COVID-19 vaccine before I get pregnant?

Currently, there is no known risk to your fertility, or to any baby that is born after receiving a non-live, weakened or non-replicating vaccine prior to becoming pregnant. COVID-19 vaccines currently planned for use in the UK are all non-live, weakened or non-replicating.

Are there any alternatives to the COVID-19 vaccine?

There are currently no alternatives for safely providing immunity to COVID-19.

In order to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19, pregnant women are recommended to continue practising social distancing measures, ensuring hand hygiene and wearing a face-covering where required. It is recommended that pregnant women take extra precautions from 28 weeks onwards, when infection can cause more severe disease. All the latest advice about COVID-19 in pregnancy is available from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists here.

Will my baby need extra monitoring?

You will be offered a detailed scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy as part of your routine antenatal care. Given what is known about using similar vaccines in pregnancy, it is not expected that your baby will need any extra monitoring if you received the vaccine whilst you were pregnant.

It is important that we collect as much information as possible about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy. If you were pregnant when you were given the vaccine, you should report your pregnancy to Public Health England (click here or telephone 020 8200 4400). Alternatively you can report this to us and we will share the information with PHE (telephone 0344 892 0909, available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday).

Are there any risks to my baby if the father has been given the COVID-19 vaccine?

We would not expect any increased risk to your baby if the father has been given the vaccine.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have any questions regarding the information in this leaflet, please discuss them with your healthcare provider. They can discuss your case in more detail with UKTIS (telephone 0344 892 0909, available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday).

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General information 

Up to 1 out of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and 1 in 40 babies are born with a birth defect. These are referred to as the background population risks.  They describe the chance of these events happening for any pregnancy before taking factors such as the mother’s health during pregnancy, her lifestyle, medicines she takes and the genetic make up of her and the baby’s father into account.

Medicines use in pregnancy

Most medicines used by the mother will cross the placenta and reach the baby. Sometimes this may have beneficial effects for the baby.  There are, however, some medicines that can harm a baby’s normal development.  How a medicine affects a baby may depend on the stage of pregnancy when the medicine is taken. If you are on regular medication you should discuss these effects with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please ensure the doctor or health care professional treating you is aware of your pregnancy.

When deciding whether or not to use a medicine in pregnancy you need to weigh up how the medicine might improve your and/or your unborn baby’s health against any possible problems that the drug may cause. Our bumps leaflets are written to provide you with a summary of what is known about use of a specific medicine in pregnancy so that you can decide together with your health care provider what is best for you and your baby.   

Every pregnancy is unique. The decision to start, stop, continue or change a prescribed medicine before or during pregnancy should be made in consultation with your health care provider. It is very helpful if you can record all your medication taken in pregnancy in your hand held maternity records.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace the individual care and advice of your health care provider. New information is continually becoming available. Whilst every effort will be made to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date at the time of publication, we cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes following decisions made on the basis of this information. We strongly advise that printouts should NOT be kept for any length of time, or for “future reference” as they can rapidly become out of date.

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