The government hasn’t ‘removed’ Covid-19 vaccine advice in pregnancy

2 September 2022
What was claimed

The UK government has removed guidance for pregnant women to have the Covid-19 vaccine because of concerns about the toxicity.

Our verdict

The government hasn’t removed guidance that told pregnant women to get vaccinated. The government and NHS websites still advise this.

Posts on Instagram have claimed that the UK government has “quietly” removed guidance that told pregnant women to have the Covid-19 vaccine. This is not true.

One post says: “UK government quietly removes guidance for pregnant woman [sic] to take covid vaccines...🤔”.

In a video post from the same account, a man says: “Quite an interesting development coming from the UK government because they’ve removed their guidance for pregnant women to take the Covid vaccine due to concerns about the toxicity.”

We could find no evidence that the government has removed any recommendations from its website that said pregnant women should get the Covid-19 vaccine, and have asked for confirmation from the government that this is the case.

The Department of Health and Social Care told Full Fact: “The government, clinical and independent advice has not changed – Covid vaccines are safe and highly effective both for pregnant women and for those who are breastfeeding. This is backed by extensive real-world data, including global analysis outside of clinical trials and in healthcare settings.”

It added: “We have always followed the expert advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. We have recently accepted advice which advised pregnant women should be eligible for an autumn booster.”

It’s not true that the government has recently changed its guidance on whether pregnant women should get the Covid-19 vaccine. The NHS still recommends that you get vaccinated against Covid-19 if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. The government’s UK Health Security Agency website says this too.

This has been the advice since at least April 2021, when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advised that pregnant women should be offered the Covid-19 vaccine at the same time their age group was.

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Where does this claim come from?

One of the posts includes a screenshot of and link to a web page on the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) website, which is a summary of the Public Assessment Report made about the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine when it was approved in December 2020.

The screenshot shows a section at the bottom of the document titled “Toxicity conclusions” which says that “it is considered that sufficient reassurance of safe use of the vaccine in pregnant women cannot be provided at the present time” and “women who are breastfeeding should also not be vaccinated”. Presumably this is what the man in the video is referring to when he mentions toxicity.

However, as we have written previously, even though the document says “Updated 16 August 2022”, it was not published or updated recently. It has been online since at least December 2020, and is an old document from before there was lots of real-world data about the vaccine being safe for pregnant women. 

It is, however, part of a group of documents concerning regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine, one of which was updated recently hence the update note which has been, confusingly, attached to all other documents in the group.

At the top of this Public Assessment Report summary document it now says: “The Public Assessment Report summarises the initial assessment at the time of approval in December 2020. The text in the original report remains unchanged.”

There is still plenty of current government guidance  available online recommending pregnant women receive the vaccine.

Data shows the vaccine is safe for pregnant women

As we have written before, the Covid-19 vaccine is recommended at all stages of pregnancy. The Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the NHS advises pregnant women to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Image courtesy of Camylla Battani

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