It is the first country to open up vaccination to pregnant women: given that Phase 3 trials did not cover this group resulting in a lack of data.
However, studies covering around 90,000 women in the US have since been carried out, which have not raised any safety concerns (results published last month in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology last month also showed the two mRNA vaccines were ‘highly effective’ in production antibodies against SARS-CoV-2).
“Based on this data, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises that it’s preferable for pregnant women in the UK to be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines where available,” said a statement from Public Health England on Friday.
“There is no evidence to suggest that other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women, but more research is needed.
“[We]...still advise that pregnant women should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with their clinician, including the latest evidence on safety and which vaccines they should receive.”
Pregnant women will be offered a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other people in the same age and clinical risk group.
Though uncommon, severe illness due to COVID-19 is more likely in later pregnancy. Pregnant women who do get symptomatic COVID-19 infection are two to three times more likely to give birth to their baby prematurely, according to information from the JCVI.
Responding to the announcement, Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said: "We are grateful to the JCVI for taking into consideration our evidence and updating the guidance around the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy.
"Vaccination offers pregnant women the best protection from COVID-19, which can be serious in some women.
"We believe it should be a woman’s choice whether to have the vaccine or not after considering the benefits and risks and would encourage pregnant women to discuss with a trusted source like their GP, obstetrician or midwife, or a healthcare professional in a vaccination centre."