UK COVID-19 Update: Plea for COVID Jabs for Pregnant Women, Latest Infection Figures

Peter Russell

July 30, 2021

Editor's note, 2 August 2021: This article was updated to clarify the pregnancy data.

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

England's senior midwife has urged pregnant women to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after new data showed that 98% of expectant mothers hospitalised with coronavirus had not had a jab.

The call came as a preliminary study suggested that the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 posed a significant risk of severe disease and posed a threat to pregnant women.

New figures from NHS England showed that no pregnant women who had received both doses of a vaccine had been admitted to hospital. Since May, only three pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID-19 had received a vaccine, NHS England said.

Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, chief midwifery officer for England, has written to fellow midwives and GP practices across the country urging them to help in persuading pregnant women to have a vaccine.

She said: "Thanks to the planning, skill and dedication of hard-working staff the NHS COVID vaccination programme is the biggest in health service history and the most precise in Europe. But we need everyone to come forward and take up the evergreen offer of a jab which is why I am calling on pregnant women to take action to protect themselves and their babies and on my fellow midwives to ensure they have the information they need to do so."

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives have both recommended vaccination for expectant mothers, while the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has confirmed it as effective and safe for women carrying a baby.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “Every day our members are seeing very sick pregnant women with COVID-19 in hospital and the majority are unvaccinated. We want to reassure pregnant women that COVID-19 vaccines are the safest and best way to protect you and your baby from severe illness and premature birth."

Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "It’s so important for pregnant women to get their jab, particularly with the virus being so prevalent and the Delta variant proving itself to be so much more transmissible."

The call came as researchers at the University of Oxford said that more than 99% of pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID were unvaccinated and frequently required intensive care.

The preprint study of 3371 pregnant women found that the Alpha and Delta strains were associated with more severe infection and worse pregnancy outcomes compared with the original 'wildtype' strain that originated in China, and compared with pregnant women who had not been infected with the virus.

Marian Knight, professor of maternal and child population health at Oxford's Nuffield Department of Population Health, who led the study, said it was "extremely good news that so few vaccinated pregnant women have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19", but "very concerning that admissions of pregnant women to hospital with COVID-19 are increasing, and that pregnant women appear to be more severely affected by the Delta variant of the disease".

The researchers called for "urgent action to tackle vaccine misinformation" and a policy to persuade pregnant women to have a vaccine when offered.

Commenting on the study to the Science Media Centre, Dr Edward Mullins, from Imperial College London, said: "It will be crucial to encourage women in pregnancy to take part in the trials of available SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in pregnancy, underway in the UK, to gather further robust data on safety and immunity over time for mothers and babies."

Infection Survey

The percentage of people testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 continued to increase in the week ending July 24, new official figures showed.

However, Scotland saw a decrease in positive tests.

The figures from the National Office for Statistics (ONS) showed that:

  • In England, an estimated 856,200 people or 1.57% of the community population, tested positive for COVID-19, equating to around 1 in 65 people

  • An estimated 18,800 people, or 0.62% of the population in Wales had COVID-19, equating to around 1 in 160 people

  • In Northern Ireland, an estimated 27,200 people, or 1.48% of the community population had COVID-19, equating to around 1 in 65 people

  • In Scotland, an estimated 49,500 people, or 0.94% of the population had COVID, equating to around 1 in 110 people

The data included all variants of SARS-CoV-2, including the Delta variant that was first identified in India.

In England, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID continued to increase for those aged 2 to school year 11, the survey found.

Duncan Cook, deputy director for the COVID-19 infection survey, said that there were signs that the rate of increase in infections might be slowing in England.

He explained that the statistics "do not reflect the recent dip in the daily testing figures in England".

The ONS estimates are based on 420,754 swab tests carried out in the community.

More News in Brief

  • The British Medical Association said it was "alarmed" that latest NHS England workforce statistics suggested that the increase in hospital doctors would not meet demands of an increasing workload for healthcare. It called for "more investment in medical school places, retention initiatives so doctors aren't forced to leave or retire early, and fair pay for all healthcare workers" to rectify any shortfall.

  • Australia has deployed hundreds of soldiers to Sydney to help enforce a COVID lockdown. The move, which some have described as heavy handed, came as infections from the Delta variant increased in the nation's largest city.

  • A UK-Ireland cross-border response to COVID-19 was expected to dominate a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council today. The gathering had been due to take place in Dublin but will now be held online.

  • All adults who have been fully-vaccinated will no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as close contacts of someone with coronavirus from August 7, the Welsh Government announced. The move was expected to coincide with a shift to alert level zero in Wales, the First Minister confirmed today.

  • The Thorpe Park theme resort joined popular destinations in offering a COVID vaccine at a pop-up clinic. The site was chosen to encourage take-up by younger people, including seasonal workers.


See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.


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