Flu vaccine call for pregnant women

  • 21 October 2019

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More than 6,000 pregnant women in the area missed out on a free flu jab last year according to Public Health England figures.

6,278 pregnant women across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire missed out on a free flu jab last year, putting themselves and their baby at risk.

Between September 2018 and January 2019, 1,531 pregnant women in South Gloucestershire (48.5% of eligible women) and 1,104 pregnant women in North Somerset (48.2% of eligible women) missed out on the free vaccination.

In Bristol, 3643 pregnant women missed out on the free vaccination (57% of eligible women).

Health leaders are urging women who are expecting, to protect themselves and their baby.

Dr Kirsty Alexander, Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire CCG’s Clinical lead for Children’s and Maternity, said:

“Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and as a result flu can cause serious complications for women and their babies.

“One of the most common complications of flu is bronchitis, a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia. If women have flu while they're pregnant, it could mean their baby is born prematurely or has a low birthweight.

“The flu jab is the safest way to help protect pregnant women and their babies against flu, no matter how many months pregnant or how fit and healthy they may feel.

“Flu strains change every year, so it’s important that you get the jab even if you had it last year. By booking as early as possible, you maximise the protection the jab brings for you and your family. To book your flu jab, just contact your local GP or pharmacist and book an appointment.”

What is flu?

Flu is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract (nose, mouth, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs). It is a highly infectious illness which can spread rapidly in closed communities and even people with mild or no symptoms can infect others.

It can be serious and even deadly for pregnant women as well as older adults, very young children, and people with underlying health conditions. The vaccine is the best defence we have against what can be a serious illness. Vaccinations help to reduce:

  •       the likelihood of contracting flu
  •       the spread of flu
  •       the severity of the condition if it is contracted

Pregnant women, over 65s, 2-3 year-old children, carers and people with long-term conditions such as diabetes, lung disease or asthma are eligible for a free flu jab on the NHS.

Dr Jonathan Hayes, Clinical Chair at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, explains more:

“For most healthy adults, flu is an unpleasant but short-term illness. However, it can be extremely serious and even deadly for some.

“The best protection you have against flu is getting the jab. Flu jabs have an excellent safety record and greatly reduce your chance of getting flu. If you do get flu, having had the jab will also help reduce the severity of the condition and improve the time it takes to recover.” 

For anyone not eligible for a free flu jab, it is still possible to get vaccinated at a relatively low cost. Pharmacies offer a flu vaccination for a small fee of approximately £10.  

Staff from health and social care will also be offered a free flu jab on the NHS to help protect vulnerable people in their care. 

More information about flu can be found on the NHS Flu page. More information about the flu vaccine can be found on the NHS flu vaccine page.

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