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Case study: Mothers urge south London pregnant women to take part in COVID-19 research

Mothers urge south London pregnant women to take part in COVID-19 research.

The Preg-CoV study, running at St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, aims to determine the best booster vaccine schedules and doses to protect women and their babies against COVID-19. All of the research volunteers we spoke to are taking part in the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) supported study at St George’s Hospital.

Jeni, 38, from Streatham, Lambeth, had three miscarriages before giving birth to her son, Brodie, in 2020 and daughter Callie in March of this year at St George's Hospital. The mum-of-two said advances in treatments, because of research, changed everything for her by giving her a son and daughter. Jeni said:

"Research has given me everything. The standard of care and treatment from the team at St George's has changed my life. I have these two beautiful babies, which is a dream come true. My husband, Mark, and I feel blessed to be on this journey with them.

"I'm passionate about research and wanted to do my bit to help other women, which is why I volunteered for the Preg-CoV study. I want to do everything within my power to protect my babies, my wider loved ones and society. The team at St George's are so wonderful. The staff made me feel so safe, and I want to thank the team for everything they do. I will take part in another research study."

Jeni was already vaccinated against COVID-19 before volunteering for the Preg-CoV study.

The study, led by researchers at St George's, University of London, compares vaccines currently being used for the UK vaccination programme (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) and new vaccines as they are approved for use, such as Novavax.

The current UK guidance is that COVID-19 vaccination should be offered to pregnant women at the same time as the rest of the population. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant women, and there is a clinical consensus that it is the best way to protect pregnant women and their babies from COVID-19.

Joanna volunteered for the Preg-CoV study when she became pregnant with her second child, Beatrix, born in March of this year at St George's Hospital. The 35-year-old used to work as a colorectal surgeon before becoming an interior designer. She said:

"I'm a big advocate for research as you can be a part of something that improves care for future generations. People who have or who continue to work in healthcare have a responsibility to provide reassurance to others. All we can do is highlight the evidence that the vaccines are safe."

Hundreds more pregnant women are needed to join the trial to help future vaccine guidelines — the Preg-CoV study launched in August 2021 and will involve around 700 pregnant women across NIHR-supported sites in England. Volunteers will be closely monitored by health professionals throughout their pregnancy and after their baby's birth.

Lucy, 35, from Balham, Wandsworth, is also participating in the Preg-CoV study.

She was already double jabbed against COVID-19 before volunteering for the study. Lucy volunteered during her pregnancy with her second child, Freddie, who was born in February of this year at St George's Hospital. She said:

"My husband and I both tested positive for COVID-19 last Christmas. I was bed-bound and completely out of it for two weeks while pregnant with Freddie. I kept thinking how ill I would have been if I hadn't had my vaccines. I would have been more worried if I wasn't vaccinated against the virus or if it had come earlier in my pregnancy.

"The vaccines have saved many lives. I would encourage anyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves, their loved ones and wider society. Research is essential because, without it, we wouldn't have any vaccines or medicines against COVID-19."

Pregnant women in the study will receive monitoring and additional support through study visits, compared to those who receive their vaccine outside the study. They will also be provided with a 24-hour phone line should they have any questions for the study team and an electronic diary to record any symptoms. They will also be reimbursed for travel to their study appointments.

Jo, 39, from Mitcham, Merton, volunteered during her pregnancy with her first child, Frankie, born in March of this year, at St George's Hospital. She was already double jabbed against COVID-19 before volunteering for the study. The 39-year-old said:

"This was the first trial I took part in as a volunteer, and I would sign up for another one. Research is important because it ensures we get the facts right in healthcare. The Preg-CoV study has confirmed I did the right thing for myself and Frankie by getting vaccinated against COVID-19."

The study will collect blood samples from participants, with a cord blood sample taken after delivery for some participants. For all participants, a baby blood sample will be taken between four and 12 weeks of age. Breastmilk samples will also be collected for a sub-group of participants.

Once enrolled, participants who have already received two or three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the community will be eligible to receive a third or fourth booster dose in the study. If they are also due their pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine booster, they can have it at the same time if they wish.

All participants and their babies will be followed up until one year after delivery.

The study seeks low-risk, pregnant women carrying a single baby, aged 18-45 years old and between 13-36 weeks in their pregnancy.

Abbey, 32, volunteered during her pregnancy with her second child, Romillie, born in March of this year, at St George's Hospital. She was already vaccinated against COVID-19 before taking part in the study. The mum-of-two said:

"The benefits of having the COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh any risks. I've made the best decision for myself, my daughter and my wider family. I want to say a big thank you to the St George's team. The staff are friendly, kind and knowledgeable and care about my family and me."

All research volunteers for Preg-CoV have to complete a health questionnaire, have blood taken and have follow-up appointments with a midwife.

If you are interested in the study or know someone who could be eligible, you can find out more by visiting the Preg-CoV study website.

Picture caption (L-R)

  • Jeni with daughter Callie, husband Mark and her son Brodie
  • Joanna with her children
  • Lucy with her sons Max and Freddie
  • Jo with her daughter Frankie
  • Abbey with her children