Three Black mums talk about having the Covid-19 booster & flu vaccinations and having a baby during the pandemic to encourage more pregnant women to stay safe this winter.
Symptoms of Covid-19 and flu can be extremely unpredictable during pregnancy which is why pregnant mums are being encouraged to give themselves and their babies the best chances of staying safe this winter by having their vaccinations.
Last winter almost 50% of Black African and Caribbean women who gave birth hadn’t had the Covid-19 vaccine. Corroborating this data is the fact that uptake of vaccines is lowest in Black communities compared to other ethnic groups.
It may feel like it is all behind us now, but viruses like Covid-19 and flu spread more easily in winter when we are all more prone to meeting up indoors, so healthcare experts are advising expectant mums to make sure they get their vaccines.
A recent UK study found that pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid infections having received two or three vaccine doses, were less likely to have more severe disease or require intensive care admission than women who had not been vaccinated.
“It may feel like it is all behind us now, but viruses like Covid-19 and flu spread more easily in winter”
Studies show that protection provided by Covid-19 vaccines decreases over time, even if you’ve had previous doses. So, it’s important you ‘top up’ your immunity this autumn. Pregnancy alters how the body handles infections such as flu, which is why you are advised to get the flu vaccine too. It’s safe to get both vaccines together. They do not contain live viruses and cannot infect the baby.
More than a million babies were born in the UK during the height of the pandemic. We talked to three mums about why they decided to have their vaccinations and their experiences of having a baby during the pandemic.
Shola Ilesanmi, mum of four, had a healthy baby after receiving two Covid-19 vaccines and the flu jab. She told us: “I was double vaccinated against Covid and got the flu jab while pregnant. There was a lot of misinformation going round, so I took the time and did my own research, looking at reputable sources like the NHS website. Both flu and Covid immunisations are safe at any stage of pregnancy, and millions of pregnant women have safely had them worldwide.”
“You don’t want to be saddled with the guilt of getting sick while pregnant with something so preventable. Someone in my family refused the vaccine and caught Covid just after giving birth. She had to isolate away from her new baby, it’s not how you want to start out.”
NHS doctor and mum of two, Dr Olamide Savage, had her son in January 2020, just before the pandemic. Her husband was on the NHS frontline, so she was worried for his safety and therefore decided to isolate two months before lockdown started with her children.
“Complications from Covid and flu while pregnant can be very serious for a mother and her unborn baby – even fatal. I’ve seen pregnant women with Covid end up in intensive care for months. They deeply regret not getting the vaccine and missing out on bonding time with their new-borns,” says Dr Savage.
“There are new variants of Covid all the time and the flu virus can change each year, so you need to stay ahead of viruses this winter”
“There are new variants of Covid all the time and the flu virus can change each year, so you need to stay ahead of viruses this winter by making sure you have a booster for Covid-19 and a flu vaccine.
Dr Savage has also ensured her two-and-a-half-year-old son, got the nasal spray flu vaccine. She said: “Children are prone to catching and spreading viruses like the flu, as they interact with so many kids. Many people think flu is harmless, but I see children fall seriously ill with it in my line of work throughout the winter.”
Recruitment manager Colette refused the vaccine over fears it might harm her unborn baby. Unfortunately, she became ill with Covid and experienced complications.
“I got Covid just before Christmas 2021 while I was eight months pregnant,” says Colette. “My oxygen levels dropped suddenly, and I was rushed to intensive care for 24 hours. Right up to the birth, I couldn’t breathe properly and would have painful coughing fits. Breathing was even harder during delivery. My baby had to go straight to neonatal intensive care, and I wasn’t allowed to see her due to the Covid restrictions.”
“Conspiracy theories were circulating in the Black community, and I was being double cautious because it was my first baby. I saw posts on Instagram linking the vaccine to infertility and baby deaths. They really affected me as I was feeling vulnerable. I now know these claims are untrue. I wish I’d spoken to a medical professional.”
You can book your vaccine appointments at your GP surgery, local pharmacy or check with your maternity service. Visit nhs.uk/wintervaccinations