Six in 10 pregnant women miss out on flu jab

Just four in 10 (43.1 per cent) mums-to-be have received the flu vaccine so far this winter, new figures have revealed.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) are urging all pregnant women to take up the free flu vaccination to protect themselves and their baby from the flu virus.

Public Health England’s statistics show that while the number of mums-to-be getting the flu jab has slightly increased from 40.8 per cent in 2016 and 35.6 per cent in 2015, more women need to come forward for the vaccine.

For the majority of people, flu is recoverable within a week - however, for pregnant women, who are particularly vulnerable to severe infection, it can lead to stillbirth and maternal deaths.

Between 2009 and 2012, 36 pregnant women died from flu in the UK and Ireland, accounting for one in 11 of all maternal deaths during this period. The flu vaccine has been routinely offered to pregnant women in the UK since 2010.

A recent survey by the Royal College of Midwives shows that 44 per cent of pregnant women will avoid vaccines during pregnancy because they are worried it will harm their unborn child’s health as well as their own.

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “The flu is a highly infectious disease which can be very serious during pregnancy for both mums-to- be and their babies. We are urging all pregnant women to have the vaccine as soon as possible so they’re protected from flu viruses circulating this winter.

“One of the most important findings to come out of our survey was that pregnant women want and need more time to talk about vaccinations with their midwives before they make a decision. Having that time is so important because there can be misconceptions about some vaccinations and although it is useful to have leaflets and websites to refer to, there is nothing quite like having a real conversation, to talk through any concerns or question.”

Alison Wright, vice president at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said: “We are very concerned that only four in 10 pregnant women have taken up the offer of a flu jab so far this winter. Flu can be a very serious illness in pregnant women and the best way to avoid getting this is by having the vaccination.

“We often hear from women who are concerned the vaccine will harm their baby, but current evidence shows it is safe during pregnancy.

“While we are encouraged that uptake is slightly higher than in previous years, we still want more pregnant women to come forward for the vaccine from their midwife, GP or community pharmacist.”

Richard Pebody, acting head of respiratory diseases department at Public Health England (PHE), said: “Vaccination is the best form of protection we have against flu. We urge all pregnant women to get their vaccination especially ahead of the Christmas period when they’re likely to come into contact with young family members who tend to be super-spreaders of flu.”