Colchester/Tendring: Health chiefs in plea to pregnant women after revealing less than a quarter have had flu vaccine

PREGNANT women across north Essex are being urged to have the flu vaccine amid fears take-up is “worryingly low” this year.

NHS North Essex says just 23% of expectant mothers were given the jab last year and anecdotal evidence from GPs suggests a similar picture so far in 2012. The Department of Health wants 75% of people in at-risk groups – including pregnant women, people with long-term health conditions and those of pensionable age – to have the vaccine.

Alison Cowie, director of public health at NHS North Essex, said: “Pregnant women are at increased risk of serious illness if they catch flu.

“In fact, studies have shown that pregnant women with some strains of flu are four times more likely to develop serious illness and four to five times more likely to be admitted to hospital than the general population.

“I am aware of the concerns some pregnant women have about the effect the flu vaccine could have on their unborn child, as well as the threat of catching the flu themselves. I want to reassure people that the seasonal flu vaccine is safe, and has been given routinely to pregnant women in the US and in other European countries for many years.


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“Research shows that the jab is safe for mother and baby and can be given at any stage of pregnancy. The earlier you have the vaccine the better as it means you will be protected for the whole winter.

“Remember that flu can lay you low for a couple of weeks and make it really difficult to look after your kids or go to work.

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“Even if you had a jab last year or during a previous pregnancy, you will need another one to stay flu safe. The jab doesn’t contain the ‘live’ virus so it cannot give you the flu.

“Flu is an unpleasant illness which can result in a stay in hospital. In severe cases flu can be a killer. Don’t take the risk – speak to your midwife or GP today to make sure you are flu safe by getting the jab this year.”

For more information, speak to your GP, midwife or local pharmacist, or visit www.nhs.uk/flu.

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