NHS England has asked pharmacy-led vaccination sites that do not currently offer an alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca to cancel any first dose appointments for pregnant women.
Pharmacy sites should instead ‘direct [pregnant] patients to a PCN site or a vaccination centre that is administering the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine,’ it said.
The letter, sent to vaccination sites on Saturday (17 April), explained that pregnant patients already booked for a first dose at a community pharmacy-led site or a vaccination centre will not have their appointments automatically cancelled, and therefore sites will have to manually do this.
This comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that it was ‘preferable’ for pregnant patients in the UK to be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines where available.
‘There have been no specific safety concerns identified with any brand of coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccines in relation to pregnancy,’ the statement said.
‘Real-world data from the United States shows that around 90,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated, mainly with mRNA vaccines including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, without any safety concerns being raised.’
The JCVI added that there is ‘no evidence’ to suggest that other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women, but ‘more research is needed,.
Public Health England (PHE) has also changed its advice for pregnant women accordingly.
Pregnant women who are currently eligible for the vaccine are those who are in cohorts one, two, four, six and the 45-49-year-old age group.
According to the NHS England letter, from today (19 April) all vaccination sites offering the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are required to ensure that pregnant women are able to book appointments for vaccination at the same time as non-pregnant women based on age and clinical group.
The national booking system has also been updated to recommend that those who are pregnant speak to a healthcare professional before booking their appointment, it added.
Before the change in PHE guidance, the JCVI advised that Covid vaccines should only be offered to pregnant women who were at high risk of exposure to coronavirus, such as frontline health workers, or to those with certain underlying medical conditions.
The JCVI concluded that not there was not enough evidence to recommend all pregnant patients be given the jab.