RTL Today – Fact Check: UK hasn’t changed Covid-19 vaccination guidelines for pregnant women

The UK is recommending Covid-19 vaccines for pregnant women, but in late August 2022 social media users said the country had abruptly reversed course. It’s wrong; the claims stem from a misreading of guidance issued almost two years earlier at the start of the vaccine’s rollout and do not reflect the UK government’s current position.

“BREAKING: UK no longer recommends Pfizer-BioNTech CV19 mRNA vaccine for pregnant women,” says one Tweet of August 29, 2022 with tens of thousands of interactions. “In addition, they recommend that women of childbearing age exclude any suspicion of pregnancy before vaccination.”

The tweet, a version of which appeared in a popular Instagram postwas one of dozens of posts revealed to AFP by VineSight, a company that uses artificial intelligence to detect possible false information online. The first tweet identified by VineSight has been published August 29 and received over 7,000 retweets.

The post, from an account that has since been suspended, sparked a vague similar complaints on Twitterfacebook and Telegram. Similar messages also appeared in French.

But these claims are incorrect; they are based on a misreading of old Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine guidelines. Health officials and independent experts have told AFP that the UK recommends pregnant women get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“The advice hasn’t changed,” said Victoria Manlecturer in reproductive immunology at Imperial College London, who has published a August 30 Twitter feed refute the allegations.

Publications cite outdated guidelines

As evidence, social media posts point to a section of a UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) report titled, “Summary of Public Assessment Report for Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine.”

“It is considered impossible to provide sufficient assurance of the safe use of the vaccine in pregnant women at present; however, use in women of childbearing potential could be supported provided that healthcare professionals be advised to rule out a known or suspected pregnancy prior to vaccination,” the section titled “Conclusions on Toxicity” reads.

It continues: “Nursing women should also not be vaccinated. These judgments reflect the lack of data at this time and do not reflect a specific finding of concern.”

But this part of the document dates back to December 2020, a archived version of the web page is displayed.

“Text referred to in social media posts is from the Public Assessment Report (PAR) which reflects our assessment at the time of vaccine approval (December 2, 2020),” a spokesperson said. of the MHRA in a press release sent to AFP. “Since then, new data have come to light (both non-clinical and ‘real world’ post-authorisation data) that support updated advice on vaccination of pregnant and breastfeeding women.”

The best available evidence and to research indicate that Covid-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as those planning a pregnancy. Great Britain has offered beatings of pregnant women since April 2021.

The MHRA told AFP that latest guidelines states that the vaccines “are safe to use during pregnancy and lactation”.

Updated web page with information on boosters

Male said the confusion on social media may stem from an update appended to the top of the UK’s public review report, which says the page was updated on August 16.

But that update was related to booster shots and their storage — not vaccine safety and pregnancy, Male said.

The MHRA confirmed to AFP that the August 16 update was not related to advice on vaccinations during pregnancy. Instead, the agency said the note “refers to changes to various documents” listed on its Web page for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Misinterpretation is the latest example of how government communications can be deformed on social media to promote misinformation.

John Edmondsprofessor in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the public should not rely on social media for public health information, noting that if the UK had changed its Covid-19 vaccination guidelines, it would likely be announced in the press.

“If it didn’t happen,” Edmunds said, “then it didn’t happen.”

AFP also previously checked misinformation about UK vaccination recommendations for pregnant women here.


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Edward L. Robinett