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Pregnant women should be further up inoculation priority list, say specialists

Roll-out reaches key phase with 84,000 jabs planned next week


Professor Fergal Malone, Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron

Professor Fergal Malone, Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron

Professor Fergal Malone, Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron

The group representing the country’s obstetricians is to raise the possibility of moving pregnant women higher up the priority list for Covid-19 vaccination.

A spokesman for the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it is under discussion and will be brought before the national immunisation committee which decides on the rankings.

Rotunda Hospital Master, Professor Fergal Malone, said he is strongly advocating the vaccine for pregnant women.

“I would like to see pregnant patients brought up the priority list,” he said. “There are some high risk co-factors that go along with pregnancy such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension which put people at higher risk from Covid-19 or getting sick from it.”

Pregnant women should not be among the last of the groups to be vaccinated and should be higher priority, he added.

Some pregnant women who are within higher priority groups can get the vaccine.

He was among a number of senior doctors commenting after preliminary reports emerged that four stillbirths occurred in pregnant women who caught the virus and developed a condition called Covid placentitis, an inflammation in the placenta.

Prof Malone said there is no evidence Covid-19 found in the placenta caused the stillbirths and further investigations are needed. “Last year in the UK they noticed that at the height of the pandemic there was no increase in the rate of stillbirth observed.”

Meanwhile, public health experts are reviewing whether pregnant teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) should be returning to the classroom in light of concerns raised about the potential link between Covid-19 and stillbirths.

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The agreement on partial reopening of mainstream schools from last Monday allowed pregnant staff to work from home, on a temporary basis, for the initial two week period.

However, pregnant staff were expected to be back in the classroom when schools fully re-opened March 15 in the case of the primary sector.

Since the pandemic started public health advice for pregnant teachers, excluding those with certain, serious underlying health conditions, has been to work while adhering to risk mitigation measures.

However, temporary working from home arrangements were agreed in the discussions with teacher unions on partial reopening.

It comes as the HSE faces into the crucial week in the vaccine roll-out with the planned administration of 84,166 doses, including 37,000 to the over-70s.

A shortage of Oxford/AstraZeneca means its target of 100,000 will be missed again.

New communication systems have been put in place by the HSE to try to avoid a repeat of the vaccine no-shows and too few doses at several GP surgeries this week, disappointing large numbers of patients over 85 who were expecting to be inoculated.

The Kilcock medical centre in Kildare had a message for patients on its website yesterday saying: ”Quite frankly, this week has been very difficult and it does not fill us with confidence that the process of vaccinating our patients aged over 70 will be smooth.

“We had 90 vaccines ordered, the dates changed on five separate occasions, and we had to phone patients to cancel and rearrange clinics three times.”

The HSE is also to start vaccinating the first 10,000 people with underlying conditions such as cancer and kidney disease in hospitals next week as well as giving further doses to long term care facilities and healthcare workers.

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said there has been an unpredictability of supply from all the vaccine manufacturers. However he added the delivery issues around Oxford/AstraZeneca were causing huge frustration and “angst”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday the March vaccine targets were very challenging but Ireland would not be asking any other EU country for unused stocks.

He was hopeful vaccination targets for the end of June, when around 80pc of the population may have received a first dose, could be met but it was subject to supply.

As of Tuesday 316,056 first doses were administered with 144,581 fully vaccinated with two doses.

Another nine Covid-19 related deaths were announced yesterday with 522 newly diagnosed cases.

The number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 is down to 426 and 102 are in intensive care. There were 34 more hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

Among yesterday’s cases 280 were in Dublin, 28 in Meath, 28 in Kildare, 26 in Cork and 19 in Donegal with the remaining 141 cases spread across 19 other counties.

The county with the highest 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 is Longford, followed by Offaly, Westmeath, Louth and Dublin. It is lowest in Cork and Kerry.

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