This article is by a practising doctor.
WHEN more than 90 medical and health professionals wrote to the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in October last year, to express their concerns about the endorsement of Covid-19 vaccinations in pregnancy, the expectation was that their arguments would be considered and either accepted or rebutted.
The expectation was also that this topic would be acknowledged to be of sufficient gravity in its consequence for the health of mothers-to-be and their babies, and with it the health of the next generation, that a meaningful academic exchange could be had with the college which oversees the care of this vulnerable population.
The first and only response was received in November, in which the president acknowledged: ‘It is true that the current evidence cannot completely rule out the possibility that Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy may be associated with the later development of some as yet unpredicted or unidentified adverse outcome for the woman or her child.’ However, the response essentially reiterated the position of the RCOG without taking any of the specific points made in the letter into consideration. The risks ‘of an unexpected adverse long-term outcome’ were termed ‘theoretical’. Furthermore, the president stated that the RCOG would be ‘campaigning strongly for pregnant women not to be automatically excluded from trials of therapeutic agents in future’.
Nothing in this response alleviated any of the concerns which had prompted the letter in the first place, and the alarm at the intention to include pregnant women in trials of pharmaceutical products based on completely new technology in the future was communicated back to the president. No further reply was received.
On January 25, 2023, the RCOG issued a position statement on Covid-19 vaccine safety in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Struck by the poor quality of evidence and arguments as well as blatant inaccuracies in this statement, the same number of medical and health professionals sent a further letter to the RCOG, accompanied by a Freedom of Information request asking for supporting evidence to justify this position statement. The reply we received stated that the RCOG is not a public authority and as such not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
We renewed our request for information, pointing out that even if not subject to the FOIA, surely more than 90 health professionals deserved a response detailing the evidence this public statement was based on, which would be used and quoted throughout the UK to inform patients and health professionals alike. The response from the RCOG contained references to the documents that had prompted the group of professionals to approach the RCOG in the first place with a comment that ‘the College considers this to be a full response to your inquiries’. Although all correspondences were sent to the president, there was no direct engagement from her after her initial response in November 2022.
We surmised that any further complaints to the RCOG would not be fruitful or prompt any further meaningful engagement, and therefore a final letter was sent directly to the president Dr Ranee Thakar on April 18, 2023, stating: ‘It is now obvious that the RCOG has no intention in engaging in any kind of discourse on the subject, even though the referenced documents from the college are full of inaccuracies which do not stand up to scientific scrutiny.
‘It is most unfortunate that it is now clearly documented how the RCOG chooses to ignore and not even acknowledge the concerns brought by over 90 professionals regarding a recommendation that has the potential to cause serious harm in the short- and long-term to the vulnerable population of pregnant mothers and their babies, and with that the next generation.
‘We will end our attempts at engaging in communication with the RCOG with the notion that the lack of concern and the lack of due diligence in justifying advice to the public regarding this grave matter has been deeply disturbing.’
After all of this, I am sadly left with no choice but to write this article to raise awareness of this disturbing negligence – anonymously, as otherwise I will be the one accused of bringing my profession into public disrepute. The irony!
All the correspondence referred to in this article can be accessed here.