Northern Ireland news

CMO urges pregnant women to come forward for vaccine

A new study from the University of Edinburgh highlights the risk of contracting Covid late in pregnancy, and the importance of pregnant women coming forward for vaccination.
Paul Ainsworth

UNVACCINATED pregnant women have been urged to come forward for vaccines to reduce the risk of birth complications resulting from Covid-19 infection.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride warned that a new study shows contracting Covid towards the end of pregnancy - particularly in the 28 days before giving birth - increases the risk of preterm births, stillbirths and newborn deaths.

The research by academics at the University of Edinburgh also underlines the safety of the vaccine for pregnant women, Dr McBride said.

"This new study provides more evidence that having Covid-19 during pregnancy carries a far higher risk than having the vaccine, particularly in the later stages where it can have serious consequences for both mother and baby," he said.

"The message is clear. Covid-19 vaccination is crucial in protecting women and babies from the life-threatening complications that can be associated with the virus. Anyone who is pregnant and has not received all of their vaccinations, should not put off getting vaccinated until after their pregnancy."

Karen Murray, NI director at the Royal College of Midwives, added: "The statistics are stark; the vast majority of pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid are unvaccinated. The consequences of this, particularly late in pregnancy, can be shattering."

The advice comes as the north's biggest mass vaccination centre shut its doors yesterday.

The site at the Titanic Exhibition Centre opened last month as concerns grew about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Vaccinations are still available at the Royal Victoria Hospital daily, while the Belfast Health Trust is operating a series of pop-up clinics this week, including today at the York Street campus of Ulster University. The South Eastern Trust meanwhile is continuing to offer jabs at Dundonald's Ulster Hospital, the Lisburn Primary Care and Community Centre and Downpatrick's Downshire Hospital.

New figures from the Department of Health show there has now been 3,619,404 vaccine doses administered, of which 885,863 are boosters.

On Sunday, the department also revealed a further 2,668 new cases of Covid, and three deaths occurring within 28 days of a positive result.

There has now been 3,038 such deaths north of the border to date.

In the Republic, 10,753 new cases were identified yesterday through PCR tests, while 4,208 were confirmed through antigen tests. The confirmed total Covid case number so far for the south is 1,103,489. The number of confirmed Covid-linked deaths is 6,035.

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