Pregnant women urged to get flu jab

London’s chief midwife urges all expectant mums to get the influenza vaccine, as just one in five are protected

By Sally J. Hall

With the double threat of coronavirus and flu this winter, London’s chief midwife is urging all pregnant women in the capital to get their free flu vaccine this year amid low uptake rates.

Data published on 26 November by Public Health England reveals that almost four out of five pregnant women in London are unprotected from flu. Just 20.8 per cent of pregnant women in the capital have had their flu vaccine so far this year.

The extra risk from getting flu and coronavirus together means that it has never been more important for pregnant women to get vaccinated against flu. 

The flu vaccine is safe, effective and the best protection against the unpredictable flu virus. Pregnant women can get the free flu vaccine from their GP, pharmacist or maternity team at any stage of their pregnancy.

Whilst most healthy people who catch the flu virus generally recover within a week, it can be more serious for pregnant women, older people and those with a long-term health condition. Even if usually healthy, pregnant women are at higher risk of complications from flu because of having a weaker immune system. 

Serious complications from flu in pregnancy can mean that your baby is born prematurely or has a low birth weight. It may even lead to stillbirth or death in the first week after birth. Flu can also be serious for new-born babies, who can catch the infection from their mothers. 

Getting the flu vaccine in pregnancy will also continue to offer your baby some immunity to flu during the first few months of their life.

Chief Midwife for the NHS in London, Kate Brintworth said: “Getting the flu vaccine this year is more important than ever and I strongly urge all pregnant women to protect themselves and their babies this winter. It’s safe, easy and free to get the flu vaccine by speaking to your midwife, GP or pharmacist. Please protect yourself and your baby this winter; get the flu vaccine.”

The flu vaccine is effective and can be given safely at any stage of pregnancy from conception onwards, and will reduce the risk of serious complications such as pneumonia.

All pregnant women can get a flu jab conveniently at one of their routine check-ups, scans or at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine.

Balshen Izzet (above), Communications Advisor, 40, received her flu vaccine at her 20-week scan at the Whittington Hospital in North London. She said:  “At a recent routine appointment, Katie, my midwife, offered me the flu vaccine. I asked questions about the impact on me and my baby and, after she clearly explained the risks if I didn’t have the vaccine, it was a no-brainer and I said yes. Having the vaccine at one of my regular appointments was incredibly convenient. I didn’t have to take another day off work and it was very straight forward. I trust the advice I am given by the NHS staff helping me through my pregnancy and feel reassured that I have protected both me and my baby.”

Katie Aziz (above), Immunisation Specialist Midwife at Whittington Health NHS Trust said: “The flu vaccine is safe to get at any stage of pregnancy, and it is incredibly important to the health of both baby and mother. At my flu clinic we have taken all precautions to ensure the environment is safe for women, and this is the case across all healthcare services in London – including pharmacies and GP surgeries, where you can also get the flu vaccine.”

The best way to avoid catching flu is to get vaccinated. Having the flu vaccine protects both mother and baby. If women have any concerns about the flu vaccine, they should speak to their doctor or midwife to discuss the issue.

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