Only 40% of pregnant women receive a vaccination against winter flu, according to the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The low number of pregnant women taking up the vaccine has caused concern, as research found that 36 pregnant women died from certain strains of flu in the UK and Ireland between 2009 and 2012, accounting for one in 11 of all maternal deaths during this period. More than half of these deaths were considered to be preventable because they occurred after the vaccine became available free-of-charge to pregnant women, but none of these women were known to be vaccinated.
‘If caught, flu can be very, very serious for the mother and baby. The vaccine is effective for many people and it is certainly more effective than not having the vaccine,’ said Louise Silverton, the director of midwifery at the the Royal College of Midwives’. ‘We strongly recommend that pregnant women have the flu vaccination to protect themselves and their baby from the effects of flu. We also urge midwives and other health professionals to have the vaccination to protect themselves, their family and the people they care for from the infection also.’
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has put together a list of myths about vaccination and pregnancy, which should be dispelled to encourage women to take up the flu vaccine. These include explanations on the efficacy of the flu vaccine, its possible side effects, and its safety during pregnancy.
‘Any viral infection, including seasonal flu, can cause harm to a mother and baby during pregnancy. It can also be serious for newborn babies if they catch the infection from their mothers,' said Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spokesperson Dr Patrick O’Brien. ‘Some women may be concerned that getting vaccinated during pregnancy might harm their baby but we want to reassure them that the flu vaccination is safe, effective and can be given at any stage of pregnancy.’