Many midwives have become infected, ill or died as a result of COVID-19.
WHO estimates that between 80 000 and 180 000 health and care workers (including midwives) could have died from COVID-19 in the period between January 2020 to May 2021 and the numbers will continue to rise if midwives and all health care providers do not achieve full vaccination status.
The State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) 2021 identified a projected global shortfall of 900,000 midwives by 2030, with a moderate to severe shortage in low- and middle-income countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this shortfall, forcing midwifery education centres to close, aggravating already unmanageable workloads and exposing governments’ willingness to deprioritise and defund this largely female workforce.
As of September 2021, available data from 119 countries suggest that two in five health and care workers were fully vaccinated on average, with considerable difference across regions and economic groupings. Fewer than 1 in 10 have been fully vaccinated in the African and Western Pacific regions, while 22, mostly high income countries, reported that above 80% of their personnel are fully vaccinated. This disparity is largely as a result of unequal vaccination distribution between wealthy and poor countries
Professional Accountability of Midwives
Midwives must provide high-quality, evidence-based services to women and newborn, and information about Covid-19 and the importance of vaccination to prevent severe infection and limit the spread of the covid 19 virus.
- ICM recognises that midwives, as defined in the ‘ICM Definition of the Midwife’, have a duty of care to the women and new–borns they attend, and for their own actions and professional advice. This accountability extends to those actions taken on the advice and orders of others (see ICM Position Statement on Professional Accountability of the Midwife).
- Midwives and maternity support workers are more likely than many health and social care workers to be exposed to unvaccinated people because of caring for younger members of the population and pregnant women — both groups with lower rates of vaccine uptake. Midwives can help to protect themselves, women and babies in their care, and the wider community by becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Midwives have a duty to act in a way that puts first the interests of those using heathcare services. Midwives must prioritise sharing scientific evidence– based information. Midwives have a responsibility to uphold the reputation of their profession, so that people receiving care, other healthcare professionals and the wider public, can have confidence in them.
- Midwives are strongly advised to comply with vaccination mandates in countries where regulatory authorities and governments have required midwives, as health workers, to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
- Midwives may decide not to participate in activities for which they hold deep moral opposition; however, the emphasis on individual conscience should not deprive women of essential health services (see ICM’s International Code of Ethics for Midwives) A midwife’s decision not to vaccinate themselves could potentially expose them and the women they care for to COVID infection.
Recommendations for ICM Member Associations and individual midwives
- ICM strongly encourages midwives to receive the Covid-19 vaccine as the best way to protect themselves and the women, newborn and communities they care for. Vaccinated midwives should maintain infection and prevention and control measures, such as the wearing of PPE.
- Midwives must maintain professional boundaries when providing information. Midwives should appropriately separate professional and personal viewpoints when discussing risk and benefits of vaccination.
- Recognising that certain governments and media conglomerates are actively involved in spreading misinformation about COVID-19, ICM encourages its Midwives’ Associations and their members to reference the scientific evidence– based resources below for information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and the role of healthcare providers in delivering evidence-based care and health information.
- CDC | COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding
- CDC | Finding Credible Vaccine Information
- WHO | Statement for healthcare professionals: How COVID-19 vaccines are regulated for safety and effectiveness
- ICM |COVID-19 Resources
If you would like to receive support from the ICM team to develop a statement for your Midwives’ Association, please email ICM’s Member Liaison & Strengthening Lead, Charlotte Renard: email@example.com ICM calls on all midwives to be vaccinated against covid 19 to protect themselves and safely continue to provide care for mothers and newborns.