A new study led by researchers at Swansea University has revealed that only 1 in 3 pregnant women in Wales had the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy, even though 2 in 3 reported they would have the vaccination.
Vaccine hesitancy is an important consideration among vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study led by the Born in Wales team at the National Centre for Population Health & Wellbeing Research in collaboration with Bristol Medical School and Public Health Wales, the study aimed to:
- Estimate COVID-19 vaccination rates among pregnant women in Wales and their association with age, ethnicity, and area of deprivation, using electronic health records.
- Explore pregnant women’s views on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy using data from a survey recruiting via social media, through midwives, and posters in hospitals.
Linking the data
The study identified women living in Wales documented as being pregnant on or after 13th April 2021, aged 18 years or older, and eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. The team used the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) databank to bring together and examine general practitioner (GP), hospital admissions, the national community child health, maternal indicators, and COVID-19 vaccination data in Wales. SAIL Databank is an anonymised data repository that facilitates data linkage. Linking data allows researchers to bring together information from various resources to create a deeper understanding and quality of information to use in their research.
Separately, a cross-section of pregnant women in Wales were invited to complete an online survey. The survey asked what their views were on having the COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, and if they had already received, or intended to receive, the COVID-19 vaccination during their pregnancies. They were also asked to give reasons for their decisions.
Main Findings from the data
- 32.7% of women were vaccinated (at least one dose of the vaccine) during pregnancy.
- 34.1% remained vaccinated throughout follow-up period.
- 33.2% received the vaccine postpartum.
- Younger women (<30 years) and those living in areas of high deprivation were less likely to have the vaccine.
- Asian and Other ethnic groups were slightly more likely to have the vaccine in pregnancy compared to the White group respectively.
Main findings from the survey with pregnant women
- 69% stated they would be happy to have the vaccine during pregnancy.
- 31% indicated they would not have the vaccine during pregnancy.
- Reasons for having the vaccine related to protecting self and baby, perceived risk level, and receipt of sufficient evidence and advice.
- Reasons for vaccine refusal included lack of research about long-term outcomes for the baby, anxiety about vaccines, inconsistent advice/information, and preference to wait until after the pregnancy.
Mohamed Mhereeg, Research Officer and Data Scientist at the Centre for Population Health and Lead author said: “Vaccinations protect against severe diseases. As the pandemic continues, booster vaccinations are increasingly important to provide protection against severe COVID-19, especially in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women.
In conclusion, it is critical to develop tailored strategies to increase the acceptance rates of the COVID-19 vaccine and decrease hesitancy. A more targeted approach to vaccinations may need to be addressed to reach certain groups such as younger people, black and mixed ethnic minorities, and those living in more deprived areas. Encouraging vulnerable populations including pregnant women is a priority moving forward.”
The National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research is funded by the Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales. This research was funded by the National Core Studies, an initiative funded by UKRI, NIHR and the Health and Safety Executive and was supported by HDR UK.