The UK did not ban the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant women

Posts on social media are circulating widely in recent days claiming that the United Kingdom government has changed its position on the recommendation for pregnant or breastfeeding women to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including the boosters made by Pfizer. See here, here and here for examples. An article published on the conservative Canadian site “The Counter Signal” also states this claim with the headline, “UK bans vax booster for pregnant mothers.” We rate this claim as false. The UK government did not change its position on the recommendation of the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. In fact, the National Health Service (NHS), the leading health organization in the UK says the vaccine is both safe and strongly recommended for this group. 

From the NHS site, “Vaccinations in pregnancy”

If you’re pregnant, or think you might be, it’s strongly recommended you get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect you and your baby.

You’re at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 if you’re pregnant. If you get COVID-19 late in your pregnancy, your baby could also be at risk.

It’s safe to have the vaccine during any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to your expected due date. You do not need to delay vaccination until after you have given birth.

The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any live viruses and cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

The Counter Signal article, and much of the claims on social media point toward a “Public Assessment Report” that states under the section “Toxicity conclusions,” that “sufficient reassurance of safe use of the vaccine in pregnant women cannot be provided at the present time.” However, this has been on the report since December 2020 (as confirmed by the internet archives). The UK has offered the shots to pregnant people since April 2021.

As reported by AP Fact Check:

The “Toxicity conclusions” section suggested that those who were pregnant or breastfeeding not be vaccinated, but also said that the recommendations “reflect the absence of data at the present time and do not reflect a specific finding of concern.”

But that specific section was reflective of what was known nearly two years ago, when the vaccine was first rolling out — and before additional data became available.

“The text referred to in social media posts comes from the Public Assessment Report (PAR) which reflects our assessment at the time of approval for the vaccine (2 December 2020),” the MHRA said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. “Since then new data has come to light (both non-clinical and post-authorisation ‘real world’ data) which supports the updated advice on vaccinating those who are pregnant and breastfeeding.”

An archived version of the same page from December 2020 also confirms that the “Toxicity conclusions” section has remained the same.

The MHRA specifically notes elsewhere online that the COVID-19 vaccines, including Pfizer’s, are safe for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding.

Guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists states that COVID-19 vaccines are strongly recommended in pregnancy.

Vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies, including admission of the woman to intensive care and premature birth of the baby.