25/11/2013 - Permalink

Pregnant women urged to take up free flu vaccine

Related topics: Health

News from Shropshire Council, and Telford and Wrekin Council

Pregnant women across Shropshire, and Telford and Wrekin, are being urged to protect their health this winter by having a free flu vaccine. 

All pregnant women are recommended to receive the flu vaccine which can be given at any stage of pregnancy.  Immunisation is safe for both mother and baby, and can also protect your baby for the first few months after birth. 

Pregnant women are at increased risk of developing complications from flu, such as pneumonia, miscarriage, stillbirth and premature labour.  Studies have shown that pregnant women with some strains of flu are four times more likely to develop serious illness, and four to five times more likely to be admitted to hospital, than the general population. 

Health organisations from Shropshire, and Telford and Wrekin, are therefore urging pregnant women to get an immunisation as soon as possible to minimise the risk to themselves and their babies.  It normally takes up to two weeks to develop protection after the vaccine, and protection against flu lasts all winter. 

Karen Calder, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for health, said: 

“You would do anything to protect your unborn baby, but many pregnant women don’t realise how dangerous and debilitating flu can be.  Getting vaccinated against flu is the best way to protect yourself and your baby from the virus, and make sure you stay flu-safe all winter.  If you’re pregnant the flu immunisation is quick, safe and completely free; just ask your midwife or GP and make an appointment.  The earlier the vaccine is given, the quicker you and your baby are protected.” 

Shropshire’s midwifery flu project is continuing this winter and pregnant women are being advised to have vaccinations at their GP.  Midwives also offer flu vaccines at the 20-week check where necessary for any women that have missed out.

Liz Noakes, Telford and Wrekin Council’s statutory director of public health, said:

“Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women because of changes in the immune system as well as heart and lungs during pregnancy. 

“Pregnant women with flu also have a greater chance of serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labour and delivery. 

“Having the flu vaccine during pregnancy can protect both the mother and the baby up to six months old, and the vaccine is safe for pregnant women to have.” 

Dr Mike Innes, Telford and Wrekin’s Clinical Commissioning Group chairman, said:

“Winter flu and its complications can make people really ill, and can kill.  I urge everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine and help protect themselves and their families this winter – I have.” 

Dr Caron Morton, Accountable Officer for Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group, added:

“By getting the flu vaccine, expectant mums are not just protecting themselves and their unborn child; they are also protecting everyone they come into contact with, including friends and family members who may be in vulnerable groups.” 

Cathy Smith, Head of Midwifery and Women and Children’s Care Group Director at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, added: 

“Pregnant women are at increased risk of developing complications from flu, such as pneumonia, miscarriage, stillbirth and premature labour.  They can protect themselves and their baby by having the seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible in pregnancy. 

“The flu vaccine is an inactivated vaccine, which means that the immunisation does not contain any live virus and cannot give you flu.  No study to date has shown any increased risk to either the mother or her baby from having the vaccination. 

“The protection given by the vaccine lasts just one season, so you will need another one this year even if you had one last year.  Don’t take the risk – speak to your GP or midwife today to make sure you have a flu safe pregnancy.”

If you are pregnant (or know someone that is) and haven’t yet had your flu jab, please speak to your midwife or GP to arrange an appointment as soon as possible.  Not only will you be protecting yourself but the health of your baby. 

Further information around the flu vaccine for pregnant women can be found at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/flu-jab-vaccine-pregnant.aspx

For further information about flu vaccination, including who should have it, visit http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/who-should-have-flu-vaccine.aspx

Further information

Flu is an extremely unpleasant illness that can spread rapidly.  Public health teams from Shropshire Council, and Telford and Wrekin Council, along with Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Telford CCG, are asking people across the county to get their flu jab as the cold season sets in.  In particular, those most targeted are: 

  • Over 65s
  • Pregnant women
  • People who have a long term health condition, eg diabetes, those with a weakened immune system (eg HIV or cancer patients), heart disease, chronic respiratory disease (eg severe asthma, COPD, bronchitis), kidney disease, liver disease, chronic neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, and people in long stay residential homes
  • Children who are two years old and three years old as of 1 September 2013
  • Health and social care workers
  • Carers – people who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an older person or person with disabilities, whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.  By getting the flu jab, carers also reduce the chance of them transmitting flu to the person they care for.

For the first time this year, a nasal spray vaccine is being offered to healthy two- and three-year-old children, not only to protect them from flu, but to help to reduce the spread of flu and protect others, including younger brothers and sisters, grandparents and those who are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from flu.  This marks the first step in an extension to the national flu vaccination programme, which will eventually include yearly vaccination of all 2- to 16-year-olds.