Less than half of pregnant women eligible for a free flu vaccine have taken it up so far this year, according to new figures
Public Health England (PHE) are urging pregnant women to have the free vaccination, as a new report published yesterday shows how fatal the virus can be for pregnant women.
The national maternal deaths report led by a team of academics shows that amongst those women who died in, or shortly after, pregnancy, between 2009 and 2012, flu was the cause of death in 1 in 11.
Within this period, which includes the period of the influenza pandemic in 2009 to 2010, a total of 36 pregnant women died with strains of the flu virus that the current vaccine protects against.
READ: FLU VACCINE CAMPAIGN LAUNCHES URGING PREGNANT WOMEN AND TODDLERS TO HAVE THE FREE IMMUNISATION
Pregnant women are at increased risk of serious complications and death from flu compared with other healthy adults. Flu can also affect the pregnancy, leading to stillbirth, prematurity and low birthweight.
The vaccination also helps the newborns themselves, according to PHE, as antibodies from the vaccine help to prevent serious infection from flu for the baby in first few weeks of life. They are also less likely to catch the virus from a vaccinated mother.
READ: PREGNANT WOMEN WORST HIT BY FLU VIRUS DUE TO ‘STRONG IMMUNE SYSTEM RESPONSE’
The report is published as latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) show that, while influenza levels remain low in England, there are recent indications that flu is beginning to circulate more widely in communities as the number of outbreaks and hospitalisations due to the virus begins to increase.
Professor Maria Zambon, Director of PHE’s Reference Microbiology Centre, said: ‘Flu is now largely preventable for pregnant women and their babies, because a free, safe and effective vaccination is offered from the NHS. The vaccine is not a live vaccine and it cannot give you flu. Despite this, around 60% of pregnant women in England have yet to get the flu vaccine this winter, and this of great concern.
READ: PARENTS URGED TO GIVE TODDLERS FLU VACCINE
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation for PHE, added: ‘Vaccination also helps to minimise the effects of flu in pregnancy. We know that women are at increased risk of complications in pregnancy arising as a result of flu, and the risk increases in the later stages of pregnancy. Getting flu during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth or having a low weight baby. Having the vaccination reduces the chances of getting flu, which in turn means the risk of these complications is significantly reduced.’
‘We urge all pregnant women, and anyone else who is eligible but hasn’t yet received their free flu vaccination, to contact their GP or midwife today. It’s free because you need it.’|
Since 2013, two and three year-olds have been eligible for flu vaccination with a newly available nasal spray, and this year the spray is also being offered to four-year-olds.