Pregnant women must have flu jab this winter, warn health bodies

‘I have seen first-hand the harm that respiratory viruses such as the flu can have on some pregnant women,’ says doctor

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Monday 12 October 2020 14:58
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People can get infected with flu and coronavirus at the same time - with researchers at Public Health England finding if you get both simultaneously you may get more seriously ill
People can get infected with flu and coronavirus at the same time - with researchers at Public Health England finding if you get both simultaneously you may get more seriously ill

All pregnant women have been urged by doctors to get a free flu vaccination this winter to ensure they and their babies are protected.

People can get infected with flu and coronavirus at the same time - with Public Health England finding if you get both simultaneously you may get more seriously ill.

Researchers previously said those who have been infected with both viruses face a serious increase to their risk of death and warned the public “not to be complacent” in the wake of fears flu could circulate around the country alongside Covid-19.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives note while getting flu is not a big deal for most people, getting the virus while you are pregnant can be serious for a small proportion of women and their babies. Flu can occasionally lead to stillbirth, maternal death and raise the chances of having a miscarriage.

Dr Camille Smyth, an obstetrician at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust, said: “As a doctor who cares for pregnant women, I have seen first-hand the harm that respiratory viruses such as the flu can have on some pregnant women. I am pregnant with my second baby and I want to do all I can to stay well this winter, so I will be taking up the offer of the free flu vaccine, which is safe at any stage of pregnancy.”

Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We are keen to reassure pregnant women that flu vaccination is safe for women to have at any stage in pregnancy - from the first few weeks right up to their due date, and while breastfeeding. 

"Over the last 10 years, the flu vaccine has been routinely and safely offered to pregnant women in the UK. The vaccine can also pass some protection to babies, which lasts for the first months of their lives.

“Without a vaccine available for coronavirus, it’s even more essential for pregnant women to take up the offer of a vaccination against flu this year. The flu vaccine is free and available from a range of health services, including pharmacists, GP surgeries and maternity services, who have measures in place to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.”

The health bodies argue that the fact some of the symptoms of flu - such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and fatigue - share parallels to coronavirus is a reason to be vaccinated against flu.

Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Covid-19 means it’s never been more important for pregnant women get vaccinated against flu. Flu can be very serious during pregnancy for both mums-to-be and their babies and leaves women at higher risk of complications and in some cases can develop into pneumonia.

“That is why we are encouraging all pregnant women to have the vaccine as soon as possible so they are protected from flu viruses circulating this winter. If you are pregnant and have any questions about the flu vaccination or any vaccination in pregnancy, please speak to your midwife or GP who can give you more information and advice.

“The Royal College of Midwives is also urging midwives, maternity support workers and other NHS staff to have the vaccination to protect themselves, their family and the people they care for from the infection. This helps stop them from becoming ill, but more importantly, helps stop the spread of infection.”

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