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Pregnant women encouraged to have flu jab

Last year uptake among mothers-to-be stood at just 40%

Mark Gould

Monday, 16 November 2015

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) want more pregnant women to have the flu vaccine this winter to protect both mothers and babies.

Last winter, just four in 10 pregnant women accepted the offer of flu vaccination, despite figures from the MBRRACE-UK Maternal, Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcome Review Programme which showed that 36 pregnant women died from certain strains of flu in the UK and Ireland between 2009-12, accounting for 1 in 11 of all maternal deaths during this period.

The colleges say that more than half of these deaths were thought to be preventable because they occurred after the vaccine became available free-of-charge to pregnant women, but none of these women were known to be vaccinated.

Seasonal flu is an unpredictable virus. For most healthy people, flu is an unpleasant but usually self-limiting disease with recovery generally within a week. But doctors and midwives say pregnant women, older people, the very young and those with a pre-existing health condition are at risk from the more serious effects of flu.

Dr Patrick O’Brien, spokesperson for the RCOG, said: “Some women may be concerned that getting vaccinated during pregnancy might harm their baby but we want to reassure them that flu vaccination is safe, effective and can be given at any stage of pregnancy. Having the flu vaccine will also protect your baby during the first few months after birth. We strongly encourage pregnant women who haven’t had the vaccine yet, to contact their GP or midwife today.”

And Louise Silverton, Director for Midwifery at the RCM said: “If caught, flu can be very, very serious for the mother and baby. The vaccine is effective for many people and it is certainly more effective than not having the vaccine. We strongly recommend that pregnant women have the flu vaccination to protect themselves and their baby from the effects of flu. We also urge midwives and other health professionals to have the vaccination to protect themselves, their family and the people they care for from the infection also.

“If women have any concerns about the vaccine, we advise them to speak to their midwife or doctor to discuss the issue.”

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