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Among England’s most critically ill covid patients, 1 in 5 are pregnant and unvaccinated

A pregnant woman receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Bogotá, Colombia, on July 23. (Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)

Unvaccinated pregnant women account for nearly 20 percent of the most critically ill coronavirus patients requiring lifesaving care in England in recent months, according to the country’s National Health Service.

“Since July, one in five covid patients receiving treatment through a special lung-bypass machine were expectant mums who have not had their first jab,” the NHS said in a statement Monday.

Out of all women between the ages of 16 and 49 being treated with a therapy called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation — used only when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by the virus that a ventilator cannot maintain oxygen levels — pregnant women make up almost a third, up from just 6 percent at the start of the pandemic.

NHS England released the statistics as part of a renewed effort to persuade pregnant women to get fully vaccinated, amid concerns that anti-vaccine campaigners are fueling unfounded fears that covid-19 vaccinations could harm the mother, baby or both. Britain began administering the vaccine to pregnant people in April.

In the United States, hospitals are also encountering a wave of severe illness and death among young, pregnant and unvaccinated people. Just 26 percent of pregnant Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine while expecting, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of Oct. 2, a figure that places them among the nation’s most hesitant populations.

Young, pregnant and unvaccinated: Hospitals confront a wave of severe illness and death

Their reluctance appears to be driven partly by months of unclear guidance and a lack of data for the expectant, both of which persisted until this summer — a consequence of their exclusion from early coronavirus vaccine trials, The Washington Post has reported.

The medical establishment has now fully endorsed receiving the coronavirus vaccine during pregnancy. The CDC formally recommended it on Aug. 11, after long-awaited studies showed no increased risk of miscarriage. Leading obstetrics and gynecology organizations unequivocally backed vaccination in late July.

CDC guidance now official: Pregnant people should get coronavirus vaccine

England’s top midwife on Monday emphasized that the vaccine is safe and effective during pregnancy and is recommended by doctors.

“This is another stark reminder that the covid-19 jab can keep you, your baby and your loved ones, safe and out of hospital,” said Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, the chief midwifery officer for England.

The World Health Organization has previously warned that pregnant people are at a higher risk of severe cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, compared with others in their age group. The CDC has warned that having covid-19 increases the risk of preterm birth.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Where do things stand? See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people.

The state of public health: Conservative and libertarian forces have defanged much of the nation’s public health system through legislation and litigation as the world staggers into the fourth year of covid.

Grief and the pandemic: A Washington Post reporter covered the coronavirus — and then endured the death of her mother from covid-19. She offers a window into grief and resilience.

Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

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