Andrew Bridgen wrong to say Covid-19 mRNA vaccines aren’t recommended while pregnant or breastfeeding

7 December 2022
What was claimed

mRNA vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.

Our verdict

False. Both the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines are recommended by public health bodies for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What was claimed

There have been more reported deaths and adverse reactions following mRNA vaccination in 18 months than there has been to every conventional vaccine administered worldwide for the last 50 years.

Our verdict

While the source for this is unclear, data from the US Centres for Disease Control suggests this is plausible, when looking at reports of adverse events. However, these reported events were not necessarily caused by vaccination.

What was claimed

The mRNA vaccines are experimental.

Our verdict

mRNA technology has been researched for a number of years, and the vaccines have been tested to high standards for safety and effectiveness, in the same way as other vaccines.

“There have been more reported deaths and adverse reactions following mRNA vaccination in 18 months than there has been to every conventional vaccine administered worldwide for the last 50 years. And given that mRNA vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, would my right honourable friend overturn the Big Pharma-funded MHRA’s recent recommendation that these experimental vaccines are administered to children as young as six months of age?”

During Prime Minister’s Questions today, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen made a series of claims about the Covid-19 vaccines, including that there had been “more reported deaths and adverse reactions following mRNA vaccination in 18 months” than for all other vaccines administered “worldwide” over the past 50 years, and that the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines “are not recommended for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding”.

These comments are misleading. We’ve previously written about other comments made by Mr Bridgen on the Covid-19 vaccines.

The Moderna and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines use mRNA technology. We’ve written more about how these vaccines work.

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Covid-19 vaccines are recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Mr Bridgen claimed that the mRNA vaccines “are not recommended for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.”

This isn’t true, and we’ve written about similar claims before

The NHS says: “It's strongly recommended that you get vaccinated against Covid-19 to protect you and your baby”. It adds: “It's safe to get the Covid-19 vaccine if you are breastfeeding.”

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists says: “Covid-19 vaccines are strongly recommended in pregnancy. Vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of Covid-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies, including admission of the woman to intensive care and premature birth of the baby.”

The British Fertility Society says: “In the UK, pregnant women are advised to have the Covid-19 vaccine, preferably the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines. There is no reason to believe that any of the Covid-19 vaccines would be harmful in pregnancy.”

We previously contacted Mr Bridgen after he claimed that “contradictory evidence” was issued relating to guidance for those pregnant or breastfeeding, which we wrote about here, but he did not respond.

Adverse reactions following vaccination don’t prove link to vaccines

We’ve asked Mr Bridgen for his source that the number of adverse reactions reported “worldwide” following mRNA vaccines over the past 18 months are higher than those reported after vaccination with “conventional” vaccines over the past 50 years. 

It does appear to be the case that, according to data collected by the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC), though not limited to the United States only, reports of adverse events after Covid-19 mRNA vaccines outnumber those after non-Covid vaccines. 

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is operated by the CDC and records adverse events reported after vaccination.

There have been approximately 1.4 million adverse events reported through VAERS following vaccination with an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) Covid-19 vaccine, associated with around 33,000 deaths, compared with around 1.3 million adverse events, associated with around 18,000 deaths, for all other non-Covid vaccines.

However, the VAERS database states that “VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness” and that “the number of reports alone cannot be interpreted as evidence of a causal association between a vaccine and an adverse event”.

The Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) runs the equivalent scheme in the UK called the Yellow Card scheme which allows individuals and health professionals to report any suspected reactions or side effects experienced after receiving a vaccine.

As of 23 November 2022, the scheme has received and analysed 177,925 reports covering 511,776 suspected reactions following vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine, and 47,045 reports covering 151,628 suspected reactions from people who received the Moderna vaccine.

These reports do not prove that the vaccine was the cause of the adverse reaction, and the MHRA specifically states: “The relative number and nature of reports should therefore not be used to compare the safety of the different vaccines.”

It has also said: “The nature of Yellow Card reporting means that reported events are not always proven side effects. Some events may have happened anyway, regardless of vaccination. This is particularly the case when millions of people are vaccinated, and especially when vaccines are being given to the most elderly people and people who have underlying illness.”

According to the MHRA: “For all of the original COVID-19 vaccines, detailed review of all reports has found that the overwhelming majority relate to injection-site reactions (sore arm for example) and generalised symptoms such as a ‘flu-like’ illness, headache, chills, fatigue (tiredness), nausea (feeling sick), fever, dizziness, weakness, aching muscles, and rapid heartbeat. Generally, these happen shortly after the vaccination and are not associated with more serious or lasting illness.”

We’ve written about these schemes several times before and how they cannot be used to accurately assess the true level of side effects from vaccines.

mRNA vaccines are safe

Mr Bridgen also described the mRNA vaccines as “experimental” and asked the Prime Minister to overturn a “recommendation” from the MHRA that they be administered to children from the age of six months. 

As we’ve written before, while the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines are the first to be rolled out to the public that use mRNA technology, this technology has been researched for a number of years, and the vaccines have been tested to high standards for safety and effectiveness, in the same way as other vaccines.

On 6 December, the MHRA authorised a low dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for use in infants and children aged between six months and four years, saying the vaccine “has been found to meet the UK regulator’s standards of safety, quality and effectiveness, with no new safety concerns identified”. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation must officially recommend the vaccine for use in this age group before it can be rolled out to children and infants under four.

We’ve contacted Mr Bridgen about his comments and will update this piece if he responds.

Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew

We deserve better than bad information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted Andrew Bridgen to request a correction regarding his claim that mRNA vaccines “are not recommended for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding”.

Mr Bridgen did not respond to our correction request.

Full Fact supporters in Andrew Bridgen's constituency of North West Leicestershire have also written to Mr Bridgen to correct the record

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