England’s chief medical officer has warned it is a “major concern” that some pregnant women are not vaccinated against Covid.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference alongside Boris Johnson on Monday afternoon, Chris Whitty said there were some “stark facts”.
“From February 1 to September 30, 1,714 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with Covid. Of those, 1,681, which is to say 98%, had not been vaccinated,” he said.
“And if you go to those who are very severely ill in intensive care, of 235 women admitted to ICU, 232 of them – over 98% – had not been vaccinated.”
Whitty said those were “preventable admissions”, adding: “There have been deaths”.
The top government scientist said “all the medical opinion” was “really clear” that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
“Can I please encourage all women who are pregnant or wishing to become pregnant to get their vaccination,” he said.
On Monday the Covid vaccination booster programme was expanded to include healthy adults over the age of 40.
Second doses for 16 and 17-year-olds have also been approved following the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Johnson told the press conference it would be an “utter tragedy” if people who had “done the right thing by getting double vaccinated” ended up becoming seriously ill or even losing their lives because they allowed their immunity to wane.
Raising the prospect that restrictions could be re-imposed this winter, the prime minister warned the “storm clouds” of a “new wave” of Covid were gathering in Europe.
“If we want to control the epidemic here in the UK and if we want to avoid restrictions on our daily lives we must all get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible,” he said.
It comes as a new study highlighted how boosters can significantly increase people’s protection against getting a symptomatic case of Covid.
Two weeks after getting their booster, adults over 50 had at least 93% reduced risk of getting a symptomatic case, according to a study from the UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA).
Protection against more severe disease and death is expected to be even higher.