A young mother, who was admitted to hospital severely ill with Covid-19 after declining the vaccine, has made a powerful and heartfelt plea to pregnant mums, urging them to get their jabs.
Anniree Muir, 23, was just under 30 weeks’ pregnant when she was taken by ambulance to Bradford Royal Infirmary on September 18. She had tested positive for Covid-19 nine days earlier.
After being admitted to hospital, she was quickly given continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) ventilation treatment because she was struggling to breathe.
Just days later on September 30, doctors, fearing for the health and safety of her unborn son, took the decision to deliver him by emergency Caesarean section.
Jahleel weighed just 3lbs at birth and was immediately taken to the hospital’s Neonatal Unit where staff spent six weeks caring for him.
“My lungs were full of Covid and not inflating properly and the baby was putting extra pressure on my lungs so they told me the safest thing was for
my baby to be delivered as soon as possible.
“When they told me that he would have to be delivered so early, I was absolutely petrified,” recalls Anniree, who is also mum to daughter, Khamiyah, aged 21 months.
“My daughter was full-term when she was born and everything felt normal and natural.
“This felt so scary. After Jahleel was born, he was whisked away to be tested for Covid. Fortunately, he was negative but I was still unable to hold him. I was only able to see pictures of him and it was nine days before I could hold him and give him a cuddle.”
Anniree admits she was shocked at how rapidly ill she became with the virus and now regrets not having her Covid jab when offered.
“I am not an anti-vaxxer but I was reluctant to have my jab because I was pregnant and I felt nervous about the effect it might have on the baby.
“The vaccine seemed so new and it played on my mind whether it would be safe or not,” she said.
“My husband got his jabs when offered and we were both so careful during the pandemic, barely venturing out so I was shocked when I got Covid and shocked at how ill I became.
“My symptoms were mild at first but after a few days I just got worse and worse. It was on the ninth day, I rang 111 for advice and because of my breathing difficulties they sent an ambulance.
“If I could go back in time, I would have said yes to the vaccine. I am going to get it now as soon as I can.”
Both mum and baby are now doing well and have been able to go home but before leaving hospital, Anniree made a plea to all expectant mums.
“I would now say to anyone who is pregnant and who is nervous about the jab, talk to a health professional, talk to your midwife and get their advice because they will be able to reassure you. But please get the vaccine because I wouldn’t wish what I have been through on anyone.
“I have been very lucky. My baby was 33 weeks and he survived and is now doing really well. He has put on weight. But you could get Covid when your baby is much younger and then they may not survive. The risk is just not worth it.
“We had originally chosen a different name for our baby but we changed it to Jahleel, which is Jamaican and means ‘God’s gift to me’, which is exactly what he is.
“I know I have been very lucky and I am really thankful.”
Consultant Neonatologist Sam Oddie led the team who cared for Jahleel on the Neonatal Unit.
“In Bradford, Covid is doing harm to the health of babies because Bradford’s pregnant women haven’t taken up the Covid vaccination in high enough numbers.
“While some well-informed women have had the vaccine, too many have been put off by inaccurate information from social media.
“Sadly, Bradford has seen more than its fair share of women needing intensive care for a disease that can be prevented or made less serious by simple injections.
“When pregnant women get very ill, their babies often have to be delivered early, which adds risk and disruption to the care of the baby at a time when women are receiving intensive treatment that is already quite distressing enough.
“I urge women who are pregnant, or are considering pregnancy, to get the Covid vaccine as soon as they can.”
Figures published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show women who have had a Covid vaccine are no more likely than the unvaccinated to suffer stillbirth, premature birth or have babies with low birthweight.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the UKHSA, says: “Every pregnant woman who has not yet been vaccinated should feel confident to go and get the jab.”
The call was backed by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which said women should not risk contracting Covid-19, which can have “serious consequences for both mother and baby”, particularly in the late stages of pregnancy. One in five of the most critically ill Covid patients in hospital since July have been pregnant women who have not been vaccinated.
Of all pregnant women in hospital with the virus, 98 per cent are unvaccinated.
Around a fifth of pregnant women who end up in hospital with Covid need to deliver their baby early so they can recover, while one in five of their babies needs care in a neonatal unit.
Despite the risks, just 22 per cent of women who gave birth in August had opted for a vaccine.
While uptake among pregnant women is improving, experts are worried about some groups shunning the vaccine, including younger women, those in the most deprived areas and women from black and minority ethnic communities.
The new data for England published by the UKHSA covers the eight-month period between January and August this year. It looked at 355,299 women who gave birth, of whom 24,759 had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine. The data found no woman who was fully vaccinated and pregnant was admitted to intensive care with Covid between February and the end of September.
It also found that women living in the most deprived areas of England were least likely to have been vaccinated with at least one dose before they gave birth. Just 7.8 per cent of women living in more deprived areas of England had a vaccine while pregnant, compared to 26.5 per cent in less deprived areas.
Dr Ramsay said: “Every pregnant woman who has not yet been vaccinated should feel confident to go and get the jab, and that this will help to prevent the serious consequences of catching Covid-19 in pregnancy.”