Sunday September 26, 2021

UK urges pregnant women to get vaccinated; Covid monitor devices work less well for darker skin

AFP & Xinhua
August 01, 2021

London: Britain’s state-run healthcare service warned on Saturday that devices used by people with Covid to monitor blood-oxygen levels at home may give inaccurate readings for people with darker skin.

The warning concerned pulse oximeters, currently being used by many of those at risk of severe Covid symptoms to check their blood-oxygen levels. Below a certain reading, they need to be hospitalised.

The NHS, the UK state-funded health service, supplies them to those with virus symptoms, aged over 65 or clinically vulnerable.

The NHS said in a statement that "there have been reports that pulse oximeters can be less accurate for people with darker skin because they may show higher readings of the oxygen level in the blood".

The devices, clipped on to a finger, work by shining a light through a person’s skin to measure the level of oxygen in the blood.

Updated guidance for virus sufferers on the main NHS website now warns: "There have been some reports they may be less accurate if you have brown or black skin.

"They may show readings higher than the level of oxygen in your blood."

But the important thing is to check regularly whether to see if they are going down, it adds.

Habib Naqvi, director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, said the issue affected "black (and) Asian diverse communities".

Members of ethnic minorities, particularly Black Africans and Bangladeshi, have suffered the highest death rates from the virus in Britain.

The death toll from Covid in the United Kingdom stood at 129,583 Saturday, one of the highest in the world.

Meanwhile, British health authorities have urged more pregnant women to get coronavirus jabs after a national study found the Delta variant appeared to increase their risk of severe symptoms.

England’s top midwife on Friday urged pregnant women to get the jab as new data showed an increase in severe illness among pregnant women hospitalised with virus symptoms.

Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, chief midwifery officer for England, wrote to GPs and midwives urging them to encourage expectant mothers to get a jab. She said she was calling on pregnant women to "protect themselves and their babies".

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives have also recommended vaccination of pregnant women.

Public Health England has said it recommends pregnant women get Moderna and Pfizer vaccines because they have been given to over 130,000 pregnant women in the United States.

A paper based on national data compiled by the UK Obstetric Surveillance System, published online on July 25, found that the proportion of pregnant women admitted to hospital with moderate to severe infection rose "significantly" after the Delta variant became dominant in May.

The paper by University of Oxford researchers found that pregnant women hospitalised during the Delta wave were more likely to get pneumonia, with a third requiring respiratory support.

"It is very concerning that admissions of pregnant women to hospital with Covid-19 are increasing and that pregnant women appear to be more severely affected by the Delta variant of the disease," said the study’s chief investigator Marian Knight, professor of maternal and child population health at the University of Oxford.

None of more than 3,000 pregnant women admitted to hospital with virus symptoms since February was fully vaccinated, the study said.

The study did not look at pregnant women with mild infections who were treated outside hospital.

The UK has recommended vaccination of pregnant women since April but takeup has been very low compared to the general population, the paper said, blaming misinformation fuelled by changing advice early in the vaccine rollout.

"The findings of this study strongly highlight the urgent need for an international approach to tackle this misinformation and improve uptake of the vaccine during pregnancy," it said.

A survey by the RCOG in May found that 58 percent of pregnant women offered the vaccine had declined it, with most saying they feared harming the baby or were waiting for more information on safety.

In a related development, the number of Covid-19 infections has risen to 299,185 in Myanmar after 4,725 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports on Saturday. The release said that 392 more deaths were newly reported, bringing the death toll to 9,334 on Saturday. A total of 209,512 patients have recovered from the coronavirus epidemic so far.