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NHS to allow pregnant women to book specific Covid vaccines

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP</span>
Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP

The coronavirus vaccine booking system will be amended to allow pregnant women to book specific vaccines, after organisations representing obstetricians, GPs and midwives said they were being passed “from pillar to post” in their efforts to book jabs.

NHS health providers – including vaccine sites, pharmacies, GP surgeries and hospital trusts – have now been told the system will be changed to allow pregnant women to book specific vaccines.

After the government announced that people under 40 would be offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine where possible, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) warned the system for pregnant women – who are advised to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines – was not working.

Charities said pregnant women had faced confusion, delays and wasted trips, with the online booking system giving no option to pregnant women to specify what vaccine they wanted.


Last month, pregnant women were advised by the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines where possible, after data from the US showed about 90,000 pregnant women had been vaccinated without any safety concerns. However, the booking system was not changed.

Prof Wei Shen Lim, the JCVI chair, said he hoped NHS England would be able to overcome difficulties in pregnant women accessing the Pfizer or Moderna jabs. “I understand there have been some reports of difficulties in accessing the vaccines,” he told a televised briefing. “I certainly hope that operationally NHS England will be able to overcome those difficulties in access.”

He said while the JCVI advised it was preferable for pregnant women to be offered a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, “we’re not saying that the other vaccines are in any way harmful or should not be given”.

A letter to health providers from senior bosses, including the national medical director for England, Prof Stephen Powis, published on Friday, said: “NHS Digital will be amending the national booking service in the coming days to allow pregnant women to book into specific vaccine appointments in line with JCVI guidance.”

Before news of the letter, Dr Pat O’Brien, the RCOG vice-president, had said:“The latest government guidance for pregnant women is to contact their GP for advice on how to receive the appropriate vaccine. However, GP practices are reporting that they don’t have the ability to do this, leaving pregnant women feeling frustrated and helpless as they are passed from pillar to post.”

Joeli Brearley, of the campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed, said pregnant women had faced “insurmountable challenges” when trying to access the vaccine, including medical professionals giving sometimes inaccurate information.

“Pregnant women are telling us that this is affecting their mental health,” she said. “The government has had a baby blind spot throughout this pandemic.”

Ros Bragg, the director of the charity Maternity Action, said the lack of clear guidance on how to access advised vaccines had led to “confusion among women, and has led to wasted trips, unnecessary travel and delays in getting the vaccine”.

The issue was highlighted by the Labour MP Stella Creasy, who tweeted she had not been able to choose her vaccine when she was called to book her jab. On Friday, she tweeted: “[So] many GPs flagging problems they are having getting healthcare sorted for pregnant women and vaccines booked. Such a critical time in a child’s life this must be sorted ASAP.”