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Fact Check-No evidence newborn babies died after exposure to COVID-19 vaccine

Viral social media posts claim some newborn babies in Britain died of pulmonary haemorrhage shortly after birth due to mothers being vaccinated against COVID-19 during pregnancy. However, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) told Reuters there is no available data showing that.

A social media user named Dr Scott McLachlan claimed in a Twitter thread here that eight newborns died within 48-72 hours of birth due to pulmonary hemorrhage, according to a midwife at an unnamed capital city hospital in Britain.

He wrote: “I have just had a conversation with an upset midwife in a large 8000+ births per year hospital delivery unit.

“They have had a cluster of babies this month who have been born seemingly healthy, but died within 48-72 hours from pulmonary hemorrhage....”

Along with other social media users (here), McLachlan, a computer scientist (www.mclachlandigital.com/, here), suggested a link between the alleged deaths and COVID-19 vaccines administered during gestation.

He added (here “Coincidental anecdotal observation that I am going to look into... All the mothers of this cluster of babies received covid jabs DURING gestation..."

McLachlan has not responded to a request from Reuters for more information.

There is no available data to support the claim, however.

“We have not received any suspected reports of newborn deaths by pulmonary haemorrhage following exposure to a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy via our Yellow Card scheme,” said Dr Alison Cave, the MHRA’s Chief Safety Officer, in a statement to Reuters.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) regularly reviews data on safety outcomes for COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy. It also found no evidence to support the claim.

Dr Pat O’Brien, consultant obstetrician and vice president of the RCOG told Reuters: “We have not seen anything to indicate the vaccine causes a risk of pulmonary haemorrhage in babies shortly after they are born.”

He added: “If it was a genuine risk, affecting that number of babies in just one unit, we would have expected to see it very commonly across well-vaccinated countries such as Israel by now, but instead the data available shows that the vaccine does not increase the risk of stillbirth, foetal abnormalities, or small for gestational age babies in pregnant women.

More than 100,000 pregnant women in England and Scotland have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose with no safety concerns raised, according to the MHRA.

No safety concerns have also been flagged in data from the United States, where more than 160,000 pregnant women have had a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (here).

Dr Cave urged pregnant women to receive the vaccine when invited. She told Reuters: “Our advice remains unchanged that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks for most people, including those who are pregnant.

“This advice has been endorsed by the independent COVID-19 Vaccine Benefit Risk Expert Working Group and Women’s Health Expert Advisory Group of the Commission on Human Medicines.

“Patient safety is our top priority, and we will continue to keep the safety of all the vaccines under close review.”

The RCOG’s Dr O’Brien agreed with the COVID-19 vaccines’ safety profile for pregnant women. “We want to reassure women that the vaccine is safe in pregnancy and it’s the best way of protecting women and their babies from the known harms of COVID-19, which include severe illness and premature birth.”

He added: “We are seeing higher numbers of pregnant women in hospital with severe symptoms of COVID-19 and urge pregnant women take up the offer of a vaccine.”

Up to July 2021, more than 99% of pregnant women hospitalised with symptomatic COVID-19 were unvaccinated, according to UK Obstetric Surveillance System data, analysed by the University of Oxford (here).

According to NHS England (here), since July, nearly 20% of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital and treated with Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) in intensive care units were unvaccinated pregnant women.

VERDICT

Misleading. The MHRA and RCOG found no data or evidence to support claims COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy caused newborn deaths. Regulators have deemed COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective for those who are pregnant.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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