As the summer months progress here in the UK, there continue to be reverberations in the press and on social media about COVID-19 and vaccines.
Writing today, rates continue to rise, with another 230,800 testing positive within the last week. The vaccination rate for the adult population has 88% for the first dose, and another 77% having the second. NHS workers were early to be offered the vaccine, due to the risks they face on a daily basis. There are some who choose not to have the vaccine, have conditions that make it unsafe for them, but also many who may find attending the places to have the vaccines difficult due to poverty or access issues.
The next questions in the media are about how long the vaccine is actually effective and who may be offered a booster. Discussions abound on social media from pregnant women and birthing people and whether or not to get vaccinated, versus maternity staff caring for those poorly with the condition. The current guidance remains for vaccinations to be offered in pregnancy due to the potential for illness and preterm birth in the third trimester. Maternity staff remain in the frontline facing the virus in the workplace.
As the debate rumbles on, and we are “learning to live with the disease” in our daily lives, it is very easy to become complacent in the UK. The situation in other countries is very different. Each high income country has taken their own view on vaccines and lockdown and has different strategies. Other countries with low or middle income may not have had choices about vaccination due to lack of resources. An open access editorial , Advocating for Midwives in low-to-middle income countries in the COVID-19 pandemic published in the journal Women and Birth points very clearly to the inequity of vaccination programmes. The authors describe how many health care workers (HCW) are at risk of death due to the lack of vaccination and lack of adequate personal protective equipment. They state and estimated 17000 HCW globally have died due to COVID-19.
I will leave you to read the article in full, but an important point to raise is that vaccines are not “free”- they are marketed by companies who have placed patents upon them. Low or middle income countries are reliant on the WHO COVAX scheme to help provide them. Individually we can help by contributing to the COVID-19 Response fund or to support the call for patents to be removed. It is thought some global south countries will be waiting until 2023 for accessibility to the vaccine. “A global pandemic required a world effort to end it-none of us are safe until everyone is safe” Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, the European Commission
While we are “learning to live with the disease” we need to remember many midwives and HCW are dying with it.
Dr Jenny Hall
MATFLIX & Maternity and Midwifery Forum