Thirteen 'mostly unvaccinated' pregnant women have died from Covid since July, yet expectant mothers are still being turned away from clinics despite medical advice that jabs are safe.
New data from the University of Oxford's MBRRACE-UK study on maternal health has shown that at least 13 pregnant women died with coronavirus between July and September this year, with 85 per cent of them believed to have been unvaccinated.
The data shows that the figure is higher than in the first and second waves of the pandemic, where nine and 11 pregnant women died when jabs were not yet available, reports The Guardian.
It comes as ministers have been urged to prioritise reaching those who have yet to take up their jab as efforts to increase booster uptake are unlikely to prevent further deaths and hospitalisations.
The Department of Health said there were 40,954 new infections in the past 24 hours, marking a 6 per cent fall on the figure last Tuesday
A total of 263 deaths were recorded on Tuesday, up almost 18 per cent in a week — the highest figure since March. However, fatalities have also been skewed upwards the technical fault at Public Health Wales
Only around 15 per cent of pregnant women in the UK are currently fully vaccinated, compared to 79 per cent of all aged over 12.
Medical experts have urged hesitant mothers-to-be to get the Covid jab – warning they put themselves and their babies at risk of severe illness and death by not doing so.
Misinformation by so-called 'anti-vaxxers' was blamed by officials for fuelling false beliefs that the jabs pose risks to expectant mothers.
Professor Marian Knight, lead for the MBRRACE-UK programme, said: ''Women are being turned away from clinics and now there are some trusts offering it as part of the maternity service, but it is not universal so there are still barriers.
'It is important we start to see data on outcomes in vaccinated women so we can show evidence vaccines are safe, rather than say there’s no evidence they cause harm.'
'These are small numbers, but … women could have been saved ; children have been orphaned.'
Covid has been linked to a raised risk of premature delivery, while pregnant women are also more likely to become seriously ill than non-pregnant women of the same age, research has shown.
A previous study found that one in six of 118 Covid patients requiring intensive ventilation were unvaccinated pregnant women.
England's chief midwife, Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, earlier said the data is 'another stark reminder that the Covid-19 jab can keep you, your baby and your loved ones safe and out of hospital'.
Only around 15 per cent of pregnant women in the UK are currently fully vaccinated, compared to 79 per cent of all aged over 12
Addressing mothers-to be, she added: 'You can receive vaccination at any time in pregnancy, but the risks that unvaccinated pregnant women face of becoming severely unwell if they catch Covid-19 show exactly why we advise you to do so as soon as possible.'
Other research has shown the Delta variant may pose a greater threat to pregnant women than previous variants, too.
Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said medics understand women's concerns but want to offer reassurance that the vaccine is safe.
He said the 'disproportionate' number of unvaccinated pregnant women in intensive care shows there is a 'significant risk of severe illness from Covid-19 in pregnancy'.