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Covid fears Experts call for pregnant women to be pushed up priority list for vaccine

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

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Fergal Malone

Fergal Malone

Fergal Malone

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.

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Temple Bar during the Covid 19 Coronavirus pandemic in Dublin's city centre.

Temple Bar during the Covid 19 Coronavirus pandemic in Dublin's city centre.

Temple Bar during the Covid 19 Coronavirus pandemic in Dublin's city centre.

"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.

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.

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

However, pregnant staff were expected to be back in the classroom when schools fully reopened - 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 on partial reopening.

It comes as the HSE faces into a 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.

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.

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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