GPs have now been told to scrap all planned AstraZeneca vaccine appointments for pregnant women — despite advisers insisting the jab should be safe for mothers-to-be.
It takes a more precautionary stance than guidance from No10’s vaccine advisory panel issued last week, which stated pregnant women should be offered jabs at the same time as their peers.
Originally the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) urged all mothers-to-be to hold off getting jabbed until there was more evidence.
But on Friday it concluded they should be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in the first instance because data from the US showed they were safe.
Medics said it was ‘preferable’ mothers-to-be are offered one of the two jabs instead of AstraZeneca’s because of a lack of data, suggesting that AstraZeneca’s jab should be given if no other alternatives are available at the time.
It said: ‘Woman who are planning pregnancy, are in the immediate postpartum, or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine, depending on their age and clinical risk group.’
But the NHS England letter to practices the following day instructed all practices to direct pregnant women to primary care network sites if they were unable to offer Pfizer or Moderna vaccines themselves.
It said all ‘sites should implement screening procedures to ensure pregnant women are identified and offered the Pfizer BioNtech or Moderna vaccine’.
The letter added that pregnant women who have already had a first dose of AstraZeneca should continue with their second dose as planned, in line with the rest of the population.
NHS England told MailOnline that patients who have their AstraZeneca appointment cancelled would be rebooked instantly for an alternative.
A spokesperson insisted the cancellation policy will not result in pregnant women receiving their first dose later.
because appointments would be transferred at the same time as they are cancelled.
GPs have now been told to cancel all planned AstraZeneca Covid vaccine appointments for pregnant women — despite the JCVI suggesting the jab is safe
Previous guidance said pregnant and breatfeeding women should not be routinely offered any coronavirus vaccine because they weren’t included in clinical trials.
But there has never been any indication that the jabs would be unsafe, which is why health chiefs in the US included them in their vaccine programme.
The JCVI reviewed data from 90,000 pregnant American women given either Pfizer or Moderna’s jab to come to its conclusion.
Expectant mothers are at a greater risk of severe illness or death if they get infected with Covid compared to non-pregnant women of the same age, research suggests.
There are around 850,000 pregnancies per year in England and Wales.
WHY HAVE PREGNANT WOMEN NOT BEEN GETTING THE JABS UNTIL NOW?
Pregnant women were not enrolled in any coronavirus vaccine trials, leading many to wonder if they should be vaccinated at all.
When vaccines for coronavirus first started to be rolled out, the World Health Organization warned that they should should not be used on pregnant women due to lack of evidence about the safety and efficacy.
Later, the body walked back its advice and said vaccines can be administered in expectant mothers safely.